05/28/2015 10:32 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT

Ranked Ballots For Ontario Municipal Elections Coming In 2018

TORONTO - Ontario municipalities will have the option of using ranked ballots in the next municipal elections in 2018.

The preferential ballots let voters rank candidates instead of voting for a single person, which will give the winning candidate a much higher percentage of the vote and a broader mandate, Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin said Thursday.

"In the recent municipal election in a ward very close to where we stand today, a councillor was elected with only 17 per cent of the vote," McMeekin said in downtown Toronto.

"That should raise some flags, methinks."

Ranked ballots will also foster more voter engagement, McMeekin said.

"At a time when voter turnout is going down in many communities it's time to look at ideas that can reverse that trend," he said.

Proponents of the voting system believe it can make campaigns more civil, forcing candidates to be more engaged in substantive debate, instead of just trying to get whatever percentage of the vote that will see them win.

The provincial government noted that ranked ballots could be used for votes for both the mayor and councillors or only the mayor, while the rest of council is elected using the current first-past-the-post system. Ranked ballots will not be used to elect school board trustees.

Ontario will convene a working group of municipal representatives and ranked ballot advocates to provide advice on how to best implement a new system, and as well is inviting public input until July 27.

The government is also reviewing the Municipal Elections Act to look at changing rules around campaign financing, third-party advertising, accessibility and enforcing municipal election rules.