TORONTO – Toronto’s city council voted to explore ranked balloting and let permanent residents vote during a council debate Tuesday.
The votes were part of a larger motion on electoral reform that included suggestions to establish weekend elections and internet voting.
Changes to municipal elections would require legislative changes by the Ontario government.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing issued a short statement Tuesday evening saying the Ontario government “will take the time to give careful consideration” to the proposal and appreciates the city’s “efforts to look at ways to increase voter engagement.”
Ranked balloting allows voters to number their choices for mayor or councillor. If their first choice doesn’t receive enough votes, the vote is transferred to their second choice.
But the city can’t unilaterally change elections rules: That power is held by the province, which would have to changes the City of Toronto Act or Municipal Elections Act.
The ranked ballots motion passed 26-15. Both Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford voted against it.
Councillor Josh Matlow suggested the change would “improve the decorum” of municipal elections and force candidates to campaign positively, looking for voter’s second and third choices, rather than engaging in derisive attack ads.
Voting for Permanent Residents
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A city council vote of 21-20 asked the province to enfranchise permanent residents in municipal elections.
But some councillors said extending the right to vote to some non-citizens may have unintended consequences.
“I think extending the right to vote to permanent residents discourages them from wanting to be become a Canadian citizen,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said. “If you want the right to vote, you have to show you want to be a Canadian citizen.”
Pam McConnell, the councillor who put forward the motion, says she wants people “engaged in civic governance.”
There are municipalities in the United States and Europe that have enfranchised permanent residents: Chicago, Boston and San Francisco have all extended the right to vote to permanent residents in some municipal elections.