Three-way tie after five ballots results in clerk excluding candidate in new councillor appointment

12:47, June 26, 2018. City Clerk Ulli Watkiss speaks to Speaker Frances Nunziata during the voting process in the special council meeting on Tuesday to appoint a councillor to replace former Councillor Chin Lee for Ward 41.
12:47, June 26, 2018. City Clerk Ulli Watkiss speaks to Speaker Frances Nunziata during the voting process in the special council meeting on Tuesday to appoint a councillor to replace former Councillor Chin Lee for Ward 41.

June 26, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

A  special council meeting on Tuesday that uncharacteristically went 40 minutes into lunch, involved six ballots, and the elimination of a council candidate by the city clerk. Even Mayor John Tory questioned the clerk on the council floor.

After a three-way tie on the fifth ballot to decide which candidate would be chosen by city councillors to replace former councillor Chin Lee in Ward 41, the city clerk told council how the rules of procedure should be applied.

“The council adopted rules that requires that a name be chosen to be excluded from the next ballot,” City Clerk Ulli Watkiss said.

But a discussion in council chambers over the best way to proceed, involving the suggestion of a ranked ballot, or voting on the candidates to advance, revealed council was not clear about its own procedures. Tory asked the clerk to clarify.

“I heard the clerk say at the beginning the rules were if there was a tie on the last ballot with two people that the clerk would draw – and is it the rules also that provide for the circumstance we were just in if there’s a tie at any other time the same rule applies? What we just did?”

“This has never happened before,” Speaker Frances Nunziata said.

“Yeah. This is the situation for three candidates, and they’re all tied, so what the rules say, Mr. Mayor, Madame Speaker, is that we draw a name to be excluded from the next ballot,” the clerk said.

The rules that exist in Chapter 27 of council’s procedures do not direct the clerk to exclude a candidate but to advance the candidate to the next ballot.

One rule says if two or more nominees are tied with the fewest votes, the clerk selects the nominee or nominees who advance to the next ballot by draw; another rule says that if two nominees remain and the votes are tied the clerk draws the winner; another rule says balloting continues until one nominee receives both the most votes and a majority of votes.

Signal Toronto contacted the City Clerk’s Office on Tuesday to inquire which rule the clerk used, but did not receive a reply.

Reached on Tuesday, the mayor’s spokesperson, Don Peat, said the mayor’s office had no comment and referred the item to the city spokesperson to reply.

The city spokesperson, Wynna Brown, said via email Tuesday evening, “All appropriate procedures were followed and the matter was managed fairly.”

Signal Toronto asked for further clarification. On Wednesday, Brown wrote via email: “We have already addressed your enquiry and have nothing further to add, other than to reiterate that this was fair, transparent and in keeping with Parliamentary rules. All procedures were followed appropriately.”

The candidate who won was Miganoush Megardichian, in a 20 to 19 result against Tommy Chang (the only candidate of the three who lives in the ward 41).

The candidate who was excluded was Cheyanne Ratnam.

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