All eyes looked to London Monday as the Ontario city debuted ranked choice voting in its municipal elections - the first-ever use across Canada.
The stakes were high heading into historic election and the results did not disappoint. From the largely smooth implementation reported by the city clerk to several noteworthy candidate victories, signs of success abounded for the new voting method.
Arielle Kayabaga became the city’s first African-American female councillor in a close race that took eight elimination rounds to determine a majority-supported winner. The city will also have its first openly gay councillor in Shawn Lewis, a newcomer who defeated an incumbent to secure the District 2 seat.
Meanwhile, the hotly contested race for the open mayoral seat kept voters on the edge of their seats through the 14 elimination rounds that eventually declared Ed Holder the winner.
In the races - five council and the mayoral - that required round-by-round tallies, the candidate with the most first-choice votes eventually claimed victory. But as promised, the plurality outcomes that would have given them wins under the prior “first-past-the-post” system were avoided and victories legitimized through true majority support.
Voters in Kingston and Cambridge clearly recognized these benefits, backing ballot referendums for their cities to adopt ranked choice voting in the 2022 cycle. While both earned majority support, neither received the minimum 50 percent turnout needed to make the referendums binding, leaving it up to the mayor and council to decide on next steps.
Kingston’s mayor said he would back the voting reform based on the message sent by the 63 percent of voters who supported the referendum, while RCV advocates in Cambridge pledged to push their new leaders to do the same.
Though still unfamiliar to some voters, RCV could soon become a common and familiar voting method across Ottawa thanks to 2016 election law update gave all 444 municipalities the option to switch to ranked ballots. And with London boldly leading the way - with a stellar performance - it seems likely others will follow suit.