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Barrie voters will decide if they want ranked ballots in city elections

Citizens will be asked on their 2022 ballot whether they'd like to move to the new system; If approved, ranked balloting would be used in the 2026 city election
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It will be up to the people of Barrie to decide whether they want to move to ranked ballots in upcoming municipal elections. 

Ranked ballots allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference, instead of just voting for one candidate in the traditional first-past-the-post system, which the city currently uses. 

During Monday night's virtual council meeting, Coun. Mike McCann amended the original motion, as discussed last week at general committee and which asked for a report on ranked ballot from the clerk's department in September. The amended motion now calls for the clerk's office to develop a question to be added to the ballots for the 2022 municipal election and eliminates the need for a September report. 

Following last week's discussion and after speaking to colleagues in recent days, McCann said "I think we can speed this up. I think the outcome this council will have is that they want to have a referendum and have citizens vote on whether they want ranked balloting or not.

"I think this is the best for the City of Barrie," he said, adding it also gives council, city staff and residents more than two years to get up to speed on ranked balloting. 

If the electorate endorses ranked ballots, the new system would be implemented for the 2026 election. 

The direction from council includes city staff educating the public on what ranked ballots would mean and how it works. 

In order for a winner to be declared under a ranked ballot system, all the first-choice votes are added up. If a candidate receives 50 per cent of the votes plus one, they are declared the winner. If a winner is not declared by this method, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and those voters’ second choices would then be counted. This process is repeated until a winner can be declared with 50 per cent plus one vote.

Coun. Keenan Aylwin said he "wasn't too crazy" about posing the question to voters on a system they aren't very familiar with. Aylwin said he would prefer to have an election take place under a ranked-ballot system and then have council confirm whether to keep it. 

Coun. Jim Harris noted other municipalities have moved forward with ranked balloting and having a referendum first "is the way to go." He said any time a municipality changes the way they conduct elections, it needs to be thought out thoroughly. 

"Every system has their pros and their cons," said Harris, adding an important aspect is making sure the public understands the new voting process. "I do like the idea of proceeding with caution and asking our citizens if they want to move down this path."

Mayor Jeff Lehman said he's also in favour of ranked balloting, but it should be up to citizens on how they elect their municipal government.  "It's something we should put to the people and I look forward to that," Lehman said.

City clerk Wendy Cooke said a report will come back to council in the late fall or early winter of 2021. 

Council still has to approve the wording of the question that will be posed in the ballots.

— With files from Jessica Owen


Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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