Sarah Harmer ticks off ballads for new voting system

Singer-songwriter to hold event raising awareness for revised ballots

Ranked Ballads will take place Oct. 2 at The Spire.
Graphic provided by Yes Kingston

Sarah Harmer will be busting out her guitar in support of an upcoming ballot initiative at the Spire this coming Tuesday.

Ranked Ballads is Harmer’s show of support for the upcoming vote to change Kingston’s municipal elections to a ranked ballot system. The concert will be free to all and is an opportunity for Kingstonians to learn about the reform, which would allow voters to rank candidates on a ballot instead of ticking a single box for their preferred candidate.

For Harmer, the concert was an opportunity to support an initiative that she believes will not only improve our community, but will make historic change in Ontario.

“It’s a really great opportunity to play a potentially historic role in Ontario. Kingston and Cambridge are the two municipalities in the province asking the question [their citizens],” Harmer told The Journal in a phone interview.

“It’s the way the Academy Awards are chosen and political parties choose their leaders,” she added.

While Harmer is involved in many aspects of the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign, she believes music can play a special role in movements like this.

“Historically, [music’s] been part of different social initiatives over the years,” she said. “This is a good chance to combine a moving set of music with some education and information about our community, and what we can do to make things better in [Kingston].”

In this year’s municipal election, the City of Kingston will include a Yes or Noreferendum to  introduce a ranked ballot system for future municipal elections and by-elections.

Ranked ballot systems have voters rank their the candidates in order of most favourite to least favourite. If a candidate receives 50 per cent, plus one vote, they win the seat.

However, if none of the candidates receive a majority of the votes, the candidate with the lowest support is eliminated, and [the first votes for that candidate go to the voter’s second choice on the ballot.

The votes are redistributed down the ballot until a candidate receives a majority of the votes.

Simon Baron, Director of the Vote Yes campaign, said the ranked ballot system will give Kingston residents greater choice in who they elect to municipal government.

“It means that someone cannot get elected by a small majority when the rest are all voting against that person, but the vote was split,” Baron told The Journal in an interview.

“It takes away the need for strategic voting because people don’t have to sort of pick who they are OK with to avoid someone they hate … they can go with who they love at the start.”

Baron and other members of the ‘Vote Yes’ team, along with the City of Kingston, have undertaken a public education campaign to inform residents of the choice they’re being presented.

For the upcoming City of Kingston referendum to be binding, there must be at least 50 per cent voter participation and a majority of those voters to say ‘Yes’ to a ranked ballot system.

With a high threshold to achieve, Baron isn’t optimistic the referendum will be binding, but rather hopes that a show of support from Kingston residents will give City Council a reason to implement the change.

The vote will take place on Oct. 22 and all students who live in Kingston are eligible to vote.

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