Hamilton's current election procedure is a “broken system,” says activist

News Jul 09, 2015 by Kevin Werner Hamilton Mountain News

The current electoral system for municipalities keeps the political status quo in place, and prevents women, and people of colour from winning elections, says a Toronto-based electoral reform activist.

Dave Meslin told about 70 people at Hamilton City Hall July 9 during a town hall-style gathering that the first-past-the-post system ensures the safety of incumbents from being turfed from office. It also means, says Meslin, politicians at all three levels of government can be elected without a majority of the popular vote. He points out that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley were all elected without a majority.

He said in the recent Toronto municipal election, about 65 per cent of residents voted against a councillor, yet that politician was still re-elected.

“That’s crazy,” said Meslin.

In Hamilton, Mayor Fred Eisenbeger won last year’s municipal election with 39 per cent of the vote over 11 other candidates. Former councillors Brad Clark and Brian McHattie, who finished second and third respectively, received 31 per cent and 20 per cent of the vote.

In the 2014 municipal election, about 34 per cent of people bothered to vote, a decline from 2010 when 40 per cent of residents voted, one of the highest in recent elections.

“The biggest flaw in the first-past-the-post system is there is no post,” he said. “It’s not that people don’t care, but that because they sense it’s broken.”

Meslin says the challenge is not to find out why people are apathetic, but “what is it about the system that turns (people) off?”

Meslin has been campaigning to reform how Canadians vote for nearly 10 years. In 2005 he helped in a referendum vote to convince residents in British Columbia to adopt proportional representation. They won the referendum with 58 per cent of the vote, but lost because the threshold to change the voting system was 60 per cent. His group tried again in 2009, but lost that referendum too.

After that experience, Meslin decided to concentrate at the municipal and community levels to see if there was a desire to change the electoral system. And he has found willing volunteers to eliminate the first-past-the-post system, and introduce an alternative voting procedure such as ranked balloting at the grass-roots level.

“Municipalities are the laboratories of change,” he said.

And this is the perfect time to capitalize on a dispirited electorate, he says. The provincial government has already launched a review of the Municipal Elections Act and Wynne has encouraged if municipalities want to use ranked ballots, they can in the 2018 municipal election.

A ranked ballot system, say proponents of electoral reform, would eliminate vote splitting, discourage negative campaigning and ensure majority support.

Under the system, any candidate with a majority of first place votes is declared the winner. If no one candidate gets a majority, an instant run-off happens until a winner emerges based upon the ranked order of preference of the candidates.

Meslin says all political parties use ranked balloting to select their leaders.

In Minneapolis’s 2013 municipal election, for instance, officials used a ranked ballot system to elect their mayor and council. He said the city elected its first Somali, Hmong and Latino councillor, said Meslin, and without any negative campaigning.   

Meslin acknowledged he wanted to recruit volunteers to help organize a campaign in Hamilton to get the municipality to change its electoral system. Other communities have already created campaigns in Ontario, such as in Windsor. Meslin was involved in the 123Toronto campaign, a ranked ballot initiative. In June 2013, Toronto councillors voted to back the ranked ballot initiative

Eisenberger has already indicated he would be willing to consider using an alternative voting system in the 2018 municipal election to encourage voter turnout.

Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green, who was elected with 40 per cent of the vote in last year’s municipal election in a field of 15 candidates, says he organized his third town hall meeting to provide information to the public to make their own decisions on whether to change the current system and improve what he calls the “democratic deficit” in the city.

“Now is the time to revisit (alternative) systems,” says Green. “It’s never a bad time to talk about democracy.”

 

Hamilton's current election procedure is a “broken system,” says activist

News Jul 09, 2015 by Kevin Werner Hamilton Mountain News

The current electoral system for municipalities keeps the political status quo in place, and prevents women, and people of colour from winning elections, says a Toronto-based electoral reform activist.

Dave Meslin told about 70 people at Hamilton City Hall July 9 during a town hall-style gathering that the first-past-the-post system ensures the safety of incumbents from being turfed from office. It also means, says Meslin, politicians at all three levels of government can be elected without a majority of the popular vote. He points out that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley were all elected without a majority.

He said in the recent Toronto municipal election, about 65 per cent of residents voted against a councillor, yet that politician was still re-elected.

“That’s crazy,” said Meslin.

In Hamilton, Mayor Fred Eisenbeger won last year’s municipal election with 39 per cent of the vote over 11 other candidates. Former councillors Brad Clark and Brian McHattie, who finished second and third respectively, received 31 per cent and 20 per cent of the vote.

In the 2014 municipal election, about 34 per cent of people bothered to vote, a decline from 2010 when 40 per cent of residents voted, one of the highest in recent elections.

“The biggest flaw in the first-past-the-post system is there is no post,” he said. “It’s not that people don’t care, but that because they sense it’s broken.”

Meslin says the challenge is not to find out why people are apathetic, but “what is it about the system that turns (people) off?”

Meslin has been campaigning to reform how Canadians vote for nearly 10 years. In 2005 he helped in a referendum vote to convince residents in British Columbia to adopt proportional representation. They won the referendum with 58 per cent of the vote, but lost because the threshold to change the voting system was 60 per cent. His group tried again in 2009, but lost that referendum too.

After that experience, Meslin decided to concentrate at the municipal and community levels to see if there was a desire to change the electoral system. And he has found willing volunteers to eliminate the first-past-the-post system, and introduce an alternative voting procedure such as ranked balloting at the grass-roots level.

“Municipalities are the laboratories of change,” he said.

And this is the perfect time to capitalize on a dispirited electorate, he says. The provincial government has already launched a review of the Municipal Elections Act and Wynne has encouraged if municipalities want to use ranked ballots, they can in the 2018 municipal election.

A ranked ballot system, say proponents of electoral reform, would eliminate vote splitting, discourage negative campaigning and ensure majority support.

Under the system, any candidate with a majority of first place votes is declared the winner. If no one candidate gets a majority, an instant run-off happens until a winner emerges based upon the ranked order of preference of the candidates.

Meslin says all political parties use ranked balloting to select their leaders.

In Minneapolis’s 2013 municipal election, for instance, officials used a ranked ballot system to elect their mayor and council. He said the city elected its first Somali, Hmong and Latino councillor, said Meslin, and without any negative campaigning.   

Meslin acknowledged he wanted to recruit volunteers to help organize a campaign in Hamilton to get the municipality to change its electoral system. Other communities have already created campaigns in Ontario, such as in Windsor. Meslin was involved in the 123Toronto campaign, a ranked ballot initiative. In June 2013, Toronto councillors voted to back the ranked ballot initiative

Eisenberger has already indicated he would be willing to consider using an alternative voting system in the 2018 municipal election to encourage voter turnout.

Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green, who was elected with 40 per cent of the vote in last year’s municipal election in a field of 15 candidates, says he organized his third town hall meeting to provide information to the public to make their own decisions on whether to change the current system and improve what he calls the “democratic deficit” in the city.

“Now is the time to revisit (alternative) systems,” says Green. “It’s never a bad time to talk about democracy.”

 

Hamilton's current election procedure is a “broken system,” says activist

News Jul 09, 2015 by Kevin Werner Hamilton Mountain News

The current electoral system for municipalities keeps the political status quo in place, and prevents women, and people of colour from winning elections, says a Toronto-based electoral reform activist.

Dave Meslin told about 70 people at Hamilton City Hall July 9 during a town hall-style gathering that the first-past-the-post system ensures the safety of incumbents from being turfed from office. It also means, says Meslin, politicians at all three levels of government can be elected without a majority of the popular vote. He points out that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley were all elected without a majority.

He said in the recent Toronto municipal election, about 65 per cent of residents voted against a councillor, yet that politician was still re-elected.

“That’s crazy,” said Meslin.

In Hamilton, Mayor Fred Eisenbeger won last year’s municipal election with 39 per cent of the vote over 11 other candidates. Former councillors Brad Clark and Brian McHattie, who finished second and third respectively, received 31 per cent and 20 per cent of the vote.

In the 2014 municipal election, about 34 per cent of people bothered to vote, a decline from 2010 when 40 per cent of residents voted, one of the highest in recent elections.

“The biggest flaw in the first-past-the-post system is there is no post,” he said. “It’s not that people don’t care, but that because they sense it’s broken.”

Meslin says the challenge is not to find out why people are apathetic, but “what is it about the system that turns (people) off?”

Meslin has been campaigning to reform how Canadians vote for nearly 10 years. In 2005 he helped in a referendum vote to convince residents in British Columbia to adopt proportional representation. They won the referendum with 58 per cent of the vote, but lost because the threshold to change the voting system was 60 per cent. His group tried again in 2009, but lost that referendum too.

After that experience, Meslin decided to concentrate at the municipal and community levels to see if there was a desire to change the electoral system. And he has found willing volunteers to eliminate the first-past-the-post system, and introduce an alternative voting procedure such as ranked balloting at the grass-roots level.

“Municipalities are the laboratories of change,” he said.

And this is the perfect time to capitalize on a dispirited electorate, he says. The provincial government has already launched a review of the Municipal Elections Act and Wynne has encouraged if municipalities want to use ranked ballots, they can in the 2018 municipal election.

A ranked ballot system, say proponents of electoral reform, would eliminate vote splitting, discourage negative campaigning and ensure majority support.

Under the system, any candidate with a majority of first place votes is declared the winner. If no one candidate gets a majority, an instant run-off happens until a winner emerges based upon the ranked order of preference of the candidates.

Meslin says all political parties use ranked balloting to select their leaders.

In Minneapolis’s 2013 municipal election, for instance, officials used a ranked ballot system to elect their mayor and council. He said the city elected its first Somali, Hmong and Latino councillor, said Meslin, and without any negative campaigning.   

Meslin acknowledged he wanted to recruit volunteers to help organize a campaign in Hamilton to get the municipality to change its electoral system. Other communities have already created campaigns in Ontario, such as in Windsor. Meslin was involved in the 123Toronto campaign, a ranked ballot initiative. In June 2013, Toronto councillors voted to back the ranked ballot initiative

Eisenberger has already indicated he would be willing to consider using an alternative voting system in the 2018 municipal election to encourage voter turnout.

Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green, who was elected with 40 per cent of the vote in last year’s municipal election in a field of 15 candidates, says he organized his third town hall meeting to provide information to the public to make their own decisions on whether to change the current system and improve what he calls the “democratic deficit” in the city.

“Now is the time to revisit (alternative) systems,” says Green. “It’s never a bad time to talk about democracy.”