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Pierce Council should let ranked-choice voting stand

// Published February 16, 2009 in Seattle Times

Seattle Times editorial argues that Pierce County should keep instant runoff voting.

RANKED-choice voting will have a short life in Pierce County if the County Council has its way. It is unfortunate the council has chosen to try and kill the system that was used for the first time last year.

The council's misguided 6-1 vote on a charter amendment sends ranked-choice back to voters for a third time. It passed easily in 2006. Then voters were asked to delay the system until 2010. No surprise, Pierce County voters overwhelmingly rejected that measure. Voters deserve more than just a single year with the system they choose.

The system allows voters to rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference. A runoff takes place when nobody receives a majority. The last-place candidate is eliminated and the voters' second-choice votes are transferred to the surviving candidates. A winner is declared when one candidate achieves a majority.

The benefits of this style of voting are many. Choices increase. In last year's election, there were four candidates for county executive. Ranked choice also has the potential to create more civil and substantive elections because candidates need to position themselves to pick up transferred votes. That's tough to do if a candidate spends time bashing opponents.

Ranked-choice voting also eliminates the primary. That should be incentive enough for the council to keep the system, considering the difficult budget decisions governments are having to make because of the recession.

Pierce County voters have repeatedly supported ranked-choice voting. The council should leave well enough alone and live with the system its constituents clearly want.