Voices & Choices

Canada’s New Democratic Party Will Use Ranked Choice Voting to Elect Leadership

Canada’s New Democratic Party Will Use Ranked Choice Voting to Elect Leadership

In mid-September, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) will vote to replace its leader of the past five years, Tom Mulcair. The 2017 NDP leadership race, which aims to revitalize the party’s leadership after suffering a decisive electoral defeat in 2015, will utilize both ranked choice voting (RCV) and optional repeated voting. In Canada, leadership conventions decide the party’s next leader, who becomes the manager of policy formulation, face of the party, and the prime minister if the bloc were to win power in parliament. The four candidates, headlined by Jagmeet Singh, the first turban-wearing Sikh to hold a deputy leader position in Canada, are beginning the final fundraising and member registration push in the upcoming weeks.

NDP Voting System

Unless a candidate wins a majority of the vote in the first ballot, the NDP’s electoral system utilizes multiple rounds of voting, until a candidate has received the support of more than half of voters. The system allows for a consensus candidate to emerge out of many contentious candidacies in order to represent a broad base of the progressive party. The NDP explains the process in a colorful video online.

On September 18th, voting for the next leader will begin across the country. To be an eligible voter, one must become a member of the NDP by August 17, 2017. Late last year, the party had nearly 45,000 members, but the base will be bolstered by new members recruited by each candidate.

In the NDP leadership race, all party members are eligible to vote, either online or by mail. The NDP will send a voting package to its members that will include information detailing how to vote, a paper ballot, and a unique password to access the online voting system. Members who choose to mail in a paper ballot will use simple ranked choice voting (RCV) to rank their favorite candidates.

In contrast, members who choose to vote online will also use RCV, but they will be able to update their ranking after every round of voting. This allows voters to change their ranking as candidates are eliminated from the process. For each round, members who voted online are given a week to update their ranking. Then, both online and mail votes will be cast for the top-ranked remaining candidate on each ballot. As a result, the voting process, which opens in mid-September, could produce a winner as late as October 15th.

The Dark Horse Candidate in the NDP

The NDP, currently Canada’s third most prominent party in parliament, grew out of populist, agrarian, and socialist roots, but has extended its message to incorporate ideas of the New Left, including opening borders, environmental stewardship, and mixed-member proportional representation in parliament. Its leadership election has heated up since dark horse candidate Jagmeet Singh joined the race.

In less than seven weeks since announcing, Mr. Singh has raised more money and earned more endorsements from members of the Canadian Parliament than his competitors were able to do in four months. Mr. Singh is even fundraising faster than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did during his race to become leader of the Liberal Party in 2013.

Because of the unusual excitement around Mr. Singh’s campaign, demonstrated by roughly 75% of his donors being first-time donors to the Party, some hope that he will elevate the New Democratic Party to challenge Liberals and Conservatives in Parliament. Due to each member of the party receiving one vote, Singh’s campaign has focused on heavily populated areas such as Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

All in all, the New Democratic Party’s leadership election will demonstrate an innovative new voting system that utilizes ranked choice voting and technological improvements to better represent voters, as well as testing the political chances of an up-and-coming progressive in Canada.

Photo credit: National Post


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