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Nova Scotia premier floats ranked ballots after weak voter turnout
July 15, 2015
By Michael Tutton

Nova Scotia’s Premier floated the idea of a ranked-ballot voting system Wednesday as one possible method of encouraging voters after a dismal turnout in provincial by-elections on Tuesday.

Stephen McNeil said the system - also favoured by federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau - is an electoral reform he’ll explore in light of a continuing downward spiral in voter turnout in the province.

The system allows voters to rank their first, second, third and subsequent choices. If no candidate receives an absolute majority on the first ballot, the last-place candidate is eliminated and his or her supporters’ second-choice votes are counted. That continues until one candidate receives more than 50 per cent.

“I like the idea of a preferential ballot,” Mr. McNeil told reporters. “I think people are looking for ... ways to deliver elections differently to Nova Scotians, to engage them.”

However, Mr. McNeil said he isn’t committing to bringing in the idea in this mandate, and would consult with opposition parties before taking any action.

In the riding of Dartmouth South, only 38 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in a contest that saw the winning NDP candidate, Marian Mancini, win by a narrow 81-vote margin over the Liberal candidate.

Turnout was better in Cape Breton Centre, with 47 per cent of the electorate turning out, while 49 per cent of voters took the time to vote in Sydney-Whitney Pier. The Liberals won both of those seats.

Elections Nova Scotia records say turnout in provincial general elections has fallen from more than 80 per cent in 1960 to 58.2 per cent in 2013.