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Pierce County voters should keep ranked-choice voting

// Published October 18, 2009 in The Seattle Times
PIERCE County voters should not throw out ranked-choice voting in the Nov. 3 election. It is a new and promising system, and it has hardly had a chance to prove itself.

Charter Amendment 3, which would repeal ranked-choice voting, is a reflex action by politicians who didn't like it responding to voters who weren't used to it.

They cannot say it didn't work. In the county executive race a year ago, four candidates were on the ballot. Voters were asked to pick their first, second and third choices. Sean Bunney, Republican, got the most first-choice votes. Under the system, Mike Lonergan, who got the fewest, was knocked out, and his voters were reassigned to the others based on second choices. Still Bunney was ahead, but when Calvin Goings was knocked out and his voters were reassigned, Pat McCarthy was the winner. All this knocking-out and reassigning happened instantly once the votes were counted.

In this case, the top-two system would have given the same result. In Seattle's mayoral race, ranked-choice might have given a different result. It would be a result that more clearly reflected the people's choices, because a ranked-choice ballot asks for, and uses, more information than an ordinary ballot does.

Ranked-choice voting is used in Australia, San Francisco and soon to be used in Minneapolis, but it is not otherwise used in the Pacific Northwest. It does require smarter voters than an ordinary ballot, but we think Pierce County voters are up to it.