Two important proposals to strengthen local democracy
Want to help improve local democracy? There are two motions being considered at Council this week that directly relate to the municipal election process. The first relates to removing the ABCD bias from the ballot (in other words: a call to randomize the way names appear on the ballot), the second proposes extending the vote to permanent residents.
You can see the text of each motion below. If you want to provide comment on one or both motion, you can do so by providing feedback on this webpage. Be sure to mention which motion(s) you are writing about when you provide your comments.
Motion: Taking the ABCD Bias Off the Ballot
- The strength of a democracy is judged on a number of factors but none more so than real or perceived bias and barriers in the electoral system;
- The current ballot for City Council is ordered alphabetically by last name;
- Currently 60% City Councillors have last names that start with A, B, C, or D, even though only 33% of the Council candidates who ran in the last election and by-election had last names starting with A, B, C or D;
- An alphabetical bias in the ballot would have a particularly negative impact on people who have last names that are Chinese, South Asian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese or Latino – among others – as people from these cultures are much less likely to have last names that start with A, B, C, or D;
- The original writers of the Vancouver Charter contemplated alphabetical bias being a problem and provided for a ballot order alternative in Section 79 of the Vancouver Charter which enables the ballot for Council candidates to be ordered by random draw.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to draft a by-law for Council consideration that would allow for the Council candidates in the 2018 general election to be listed on the ballot in random order per the provisions of Section 79 of the Vancouver Charter.
Motion: Permanent Resident Voting
- A “Permanent Resident” is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada as a skilled worker, refugee, caregiver, sponsored family member, but is not a Canadian citizen;
- Permanent residency is a first step to Canadian citizenship. Allowing Permanent Residents to vote in municipal elections is important for the confidence and trust in our democracy;
- Because citizenship is not solely defined by an oath or a test but through a daily practice and many Permanent Residents are active members of Vancouver’s communities: contributing to the financial viability of the city as property taxpayers, have children who attend schools, and are contributors to municipal programs and services with user fees and have the same responsibilities as citizens but not the same opportunity to affect decisions directly at a municipal level;
- In 2011 there were 60,000 permanent residents living in Vancouver equivalent to 33% of voters that voted in the 2014 municipal election;
- City Council endorsed the 2014 Engaged City Task Force recommendations to seek Permanent Resident voting rights in municipal elections as a powerful way of creating an inclusive, equitable, and caring community in Vancouver;
- A 2017 motion from City Council asking city staff to investigate this matter determined that the Provincial government is the appropriate authority to undertake this work;
- The Province of British Columbia has the governing authority to implement electoral legislative changes including allowing for permanent residents to vote in municipal elections;
- More than 45 countries have granted Permanent Residents some form of voting rights — including seven jurisdictions in the U.S. and 25 European Union countries. In Canada, 11 municipalities are working toward extending local election voting rights to Permanent Residents.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver advocate to the Province of British Columbia to make the necessary changes to allow Permanent Residents to vote in municipal elections in Vancouver.