Voting strategies to consider

If there’s a candidate who you want to see elected, or someone else you don’t want to see win, what’s the best way to make your list for voting day? Our friend Jim thinks that some voters simply pick off the top names or bottom names on the ballot – voting in alphabetical order.

By Michael Fox

If there’s a candidate who you want to see elected, or someone else you don’t want to see win, what’s the best way to make your list for voting day?

My previous articles on the number of candidates supported on average, and voting patterns across NOTL, have prompted several thoughtful questions and responses. It’s great to see so many people trying to maximize the impact of their vote. Certainly, there are several voting strategies to consider.

The A to Zed theory

Candidates listed by letter of their last name. Checkmark indicates winner.
Candidates listed as on ballot – by letter of their last name. Checkmarks indicates 8 winners in past 3 NOTL elections.

Our friend Jim tried to convince us that some voters simply pick off the top names or bottom names on the ballot – voting based on the alphabetical order of names on the ballot. Being curious, I did the analysis here – and am happy to debunk that NOTL urban legend. Being the first name or last name on the ballot might capture a few votes, but it’s not a guarantee of a seat on Council.

When you want to see someone defeated

Our friend David thinks that if you want to vote against someone on Council, then you need to vote for 8 other candidates.  In particular, if you are one of those disappointed (to be polite) with some of the incumbents on Council, then you need to vote in a pattern that helps to offset the name recognition of a politician running for re-election. So the best approach would be to (carefully) select 8 other candidates and give your support to them.

“If you have 3 candidates you don’t want to get in and you don’t care who the other five are then you should cast a full slate to the opponents of the three. Otherwise, how would you feel if candidate X (who you don’t want to get in) got in by one vote,” argues David. “An unused vote is akin to a vote for an incumbent.”

How to select the best candidates

The list of candidates running in this election is poorly promoted by the Town despite its much-hyped Join the Conversation website. The website link for a list of candidates is well hidden, but it’s here: I’m adding a list of candidate websites here.

Personally, I try to select candidates based on how they seem to tackle issues. Do they do some homework? Do they listen to the voices of others in order to try to understand all the options and considerations? Do they bother to read all the material that an elected official is supposed to consider when making a decision? Can they express an argument in a way that other people can understand and consider? Are they inclined to take leadership on some issues, sit on the sideline (no thanks) or obstruct things simply to get attention (so sad).

I will be voting for 8 Council candidates, but so far have only decided on 5. I’m visiting candidate websites, reading their answers to questions, and going to the candidates’ meetings organized by Focus NOTL, the Chamber of Commerce, and other groups in order to flesh out my list.

Local interest groups

The good news in 2018 is that there is easier access to the perspectives of those candidates who respect voters enough to provide their responses to candidate surveys from local groups.  This means that you can see their answers to the same set of questions in the context of how other candidates responded. Several organizations have asked candidates a series of questions and made the replies available online for voters to review:

  • The Niagara Foundation asked candidates to share their views on a number of key heritage and development issues that are important to the community. The responses to five questions are in a 62-page PDF on its website. View and/or download at
  • Save Our Rand Estate (SORE) asked candidates a series of 7 questions related to the proposals for the Rand Estate as well as development and long-term planning. The responses are available in a PDF form from each candidate at
  • Harmony Residents Group is a non-profit organization working to establish a natural heritage park on the Lakeshore Road property owned by Parks Canada. They intend to publish responses from candidates at
  • NOTL Chamber of Commerce has a pro-business bias and is asking candidates only one question (“If elected, what will you do to support business during the next term of Council?”) at its all-candidates’ night at the Community Centre at 6 pm Oct. 4 (free tickets must be obtained in advance) which will be live-streamed by Wee Stream at

Local media

Local media are also providing good coverage:

  • The new hyper-local community newspaper The Lake Report, launched in May by NOTL resident Harley Davidson (aka Richard Harley), has Penny Coles reporting in depth from candidates’ sessions on its website.
  • The Lake Report also sold advertising pages to all candidates in a 28-page special edition that is being distributed to all candidates via Canada Post and is available online as a PDF at
  • Metroland Media Group, which now owns all the local daily and weekly newspapers, is covering all the municipal elections with its Niagara This Week group. Richard Hutton is interviewing each of the NOTL candidates. Articles can be found at
lake report election issue cover
The Lake Report special election issue consists of sponsored candidate messages.

Online platforms

The website is organizing candidates’ meetings at St. Andrews Church. It describes itself a community platform, but it’s a business that sells advertising and content on its website. The articles about candidates likely have been paid for by their campaigns. That’s not necessarily bad – it’s the online version of a brochure in your mailbox.

Third-party advocacy groups

A new wrinkle at the municipal level this year is the Town’s requirement that any group endorsing candidates pay a fee and register just like any candidate must do. The power for a Town to enforce oversight on third-party advertising was among changes to the Municipal Elections Act in June 2016. This means that the identities of financial backers of the groups will be reported in the same type of disclosures filed after the election by candidates. Representatives of two groups are registered on the Town website:

  • Focus NOTL is the group organizing candidate panels at the Legion Hall in Old Town. Its focus is getting new faces elected to Council, going so far as to proclaim on its website: “Engage in a dialogue focused on NOTL issues and remove the incumbent government.”
  • A Better Niagara is a region-wide group that is endorsing candidates who have agreed to a process of “a face-to-face interview, a resume review and have signed our transparency, accountability and integrity pledge.” (To be clear, I’m not aware of any candidates who publicly say they are against accountability, integrity and transparency.) The group’s list of endorsements so far includes a NOTL candidate for Lord Mayor and five candidates for Council at its website.