Barrie City Hall to put issue of ranked ballots to a referendum during 2022 election

Residents to make final call on whether to implement ranked ballots

Barrie City Hall is mulling over whether ranked ballots are the way to go at election time, but the final call may come from area residents.

The city’s councillors voted to accept information from city staff at Monday night’s meeting on how ranked ballots would work within the city. If ranked ballots were implemented, they would be used to elect members of council and the mayor, with voters ranking their preferred candidate on the ballot. The winner would be decided among all the first-choice votes. If a candidate failed to get 50% plus one vote, then the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated and the ballots counted again. This wold continue until a winner is declared.

Currently, the city uses a first-past-the-post system, where the candidate with the most votes wins.

A grassroots collective of local community advocates known as Engage Barrie is urging the city to implement ranked balloting. “Studies further show that places with electoral systems that allow for greater choice than our first-past-the-post system better reflect the population within the composition of their elected bodies,” reads a statement from Engage Barrie sent to Barrie 360 via email. “This means more women get elected, more people of colour, people of different occupations and socioeconomic backgrounds, and LGBTQ+ people, as only some examples. This leads to a diversity of ideas, better decision-making, and better economic, social and environmental policy outcomes.”

The staff report received on Monday evening doesn’t speak to the social impact of introducing ranked ballots, only the technical and financial implications. According to the report, the 2018 municipal election cost about $500,000 and goes on to claim that introducing ranked ballots in the city would mean a $220,000 increase in election costs. That includes costs associated with public consultation, communications, and additional staff.

However, the city is not making any moves to implement this system just yet; Barrie residents will have their say. Thanks to an amendment from Councillor Mike McCann, residents will see a question on the 2022 municipal ballot on whether ranked ballotting would be a preferred method of voting moving forward. “It does give our staff, it gives council, it also gives our residents two years to be educated on ranked ballots and what it means to the electorate,” he said during Monday night’s council meeting via Zoom. His amendment also included elements of a public awareness campaign, to be worked out in detail at a later date.

Residents of Barrie could expect ranked ballots in the 2026 municipal election should enough vote to do so.