FairVote New Mexico

FairVote New Mexico, a project of FairVote, is a non-partisan organization that advocates for electoral solutions that give voters more voice and greater choice. We specifically advocate for ranked choice voting, a system proven to be more inclusive, participatory, and representative than our current electoral system. In 2008, ranked choice voting (RCV) was approved by voters in Santa Fe, NM, and the city is planning to implement it for local elections in March 2018. 

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What is ranked choice voting?

Ranked choice voting (RCV) makes democracy more fair and functional. It works in a variety of contexts. It is a simple change that can have a big impact.

With ranked choice voting, voters can rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice. Candidates do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second and even third choices. When used as an "instant runoff" to elect a single candidate like a mayor or a governor, RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters. When used as a form of fair representation voting to elect more than one candidate like a city council, state legislature or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.

In 2008, ranked choice voting (RCV) was approved by Santa Fe voters. Santa Fe is planning to implement it for local elections in March 2018, and in doing so, New Mexico will join states like California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota that have cities using RCV. Santa Fe voters support using ranked choice voting for their elections for several reasons:

Promotes Fairness

Too often, candidates win elections despite being opposed by most voters. With RCV, you get winners who earn a majority of the vote. This means the winner is more broadly representative.

Reduces Costs

With RCV, you don’t need to vote twice since there is no primary or runoff election. Instead, you get a winner in a single high turnout election. This saves money and reduces campaign finance needs.

Fosters Civil Elections

In RCV elections, candidates will ask for your first choice support and also  your backup choices. This encourages candidates to reach beyond their traditional base of supporters. Candidates who have run and won in RCV elections have been successful because of coalition building and effective relationship building with all voters.

Eliminates the “Spoiler Effect”and “Vote-Splitting”

RCV makes elections more fair and representative because you always get to vote your favorite first. This allows you to vote for your true preference based on your hopes and values, instead of the fear of “splitting the vote” among candidates you like from the same community.


We’re looking for volunteers to help us ramp up our communications and advocacy work across the state. If you’re interested, sign up to receive the latest news from FairVote New Mexico and let us know how you would like to get involved.




Maria Perez


Maria Perez

Born and raised in Ecuador, Maria Perez immigrated to the United States in the 1990s to pursue a B.S. in Biology and later a M.S. in Chinese medicine. She has crafted a career guided by her passion to address social disparities. With 18 years of experience working on equity and equitable policy, she is a seasoned organizer, facilitator, health care practitioner, advocate, coalition builder and a firm believer in the power of people coming together to address complex social problems. 

Before joining FairVote, Maria worked on place-based health equity initiatives in the Bay Area, where she supported collaborative groups in planning and implementing campaigns around issues of health access, education, economic opportunity, and housing.

As a health care practitioner and advocate, Maria spent over ten years serving uninsured and underinsured populations. She is also a former health educator, having served in faculty and curriculum development roles for community health workers and Chinese medicine students. Maria spent several years deeply involved with Affordable Care Act outreach, education and enrollment, and legislative work in the state of New Mexico.

Santa Fe voters in August 2017 filed a petition asking the Supreme Court of New Mexico to order their city to uphold its charter and use ranked choice voting (RCV) in Santa Fe's mayoral and city council elections in March 2018. They were later joined by numerous community groups as amici curiae. On September 21, 2017, the Supreme Court denied the petition without explanation. Although the Court declined to order the city to implement RCV, it did not address the merits of the petition. 

In September, the voters re-filed, this time in district court. This page lists important documents and media coverage of these efforts. It was last updated October 9, 2017.

Important Documents

Writ of Mandamus in New Mexico District Court (September - October)

Writ of Mandamus filed by Petitioners

Writ of Mandamus in New Mexico Supreme Court (August - September)

Writ of Mandamus filed by Petitioners
Supreme Court order on Sept. 1st requesting response from Santa Fe
Brief of Amici Curiae
Unopposed motion for leave to file brief of Amici Curiae
Response to Petition, filed by Respondents
Statements of Maria Perez and Teresa Leger
Supreme Court order denying petition

Media Coverage

New Mexico District Court Exhibits

Affidavits from Experts 

Affidavits from Plaintiffs 

New Mexico Supreme Court Exhibits

Affidavits from Experts 

Affidavits from Plaintiffs 

Voter Education: Messages to Santa Fe City Council, July 2017


How does Ranked Choice Voting work?

Ranked choice voting gives you the power to rank as many candidates as you want from favorite to least favorite. On Election Night all the votes are counted for first choice rankings. If one candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, they win, just like now. If no candidate receives a majority in the first round, the candidate with the fewest first choice rankings is eliminated. If your favorite candidate is eliminated, your vote is instantly counted for your second choice. This repeats until one candidate reaches a majority and wins.

What are the benefits of voting with a ranked choice ballot?

Upholds Majority Rule. RCV ensures that the candidate with the most votes and the broadest support wins, so voters get what they want.

More Power for Voters. Your voice matters more with RCV. You never feel like your vote is “wasted.” If your favorite candidate can't win, your vote counts for the candidate you ranked second.

Eliminates Vote Splitting. RCV  gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying that you will help to elect the candidate you like the least.

Reduces Incentives for Negative Campaigns. Candidates are encouraged to seek second choice rankings from voters whose favorite candidate is somebody else. You are less likely to rank a candidate as your 2nd choice who has unfairly attacked your favorite candidate.

Better Choices for Voters. Ranked choice voting encourages candidates to take their case directly to you with a focus on the issues.

Where is ranked choice voting used?

Cities and counties across the United States use ranked choice voting, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland (ME), and other counties and cities in Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Tennessee. In 2016 the voters of Maine passed RCV for the highest offices in the state. Governments around the world use ranked choice voting in national elections, including Australia and Ireland. Ranked ballots are recommended by Roberts’ Rules of Order and are used by hundreds of private associations across the United States and around the world.

What does the Santa Fe charter say about ranked choice voting?

The Charter provision spells out the exact form of ranked choice voting to be used.

  1. Voters have to be able to rank candidates.

  2. Explains the counting process.

  3. Requires the city to run an RCV election as soon as it has machines that can reject spoiled ballots and count RCV elections.

The county’s voting equipment will be ready to run an election with all these features in 2018.

Does Santa Fe have time to run an RCV election in March 2018?

Yes. In fact, the path to implementation of RCV in Santa Fe is easier than in any previous city. The city’s voting equipment will come ready for RCV elections with an excellent ballot design. The rules governing RCV’s specifics are already determined by the voting equipment and are proven to work in California cities like Oakland. Tested models of voter education can be started earlier than done in most cities, and nonprofit groups like FairVote New Mexico will devote significant time and resources to introduce RCV to voters.

How do average voters handle ranked choice voting ballots?

Voters like RCV. Whether it's deciding what car to buy or what menu item to order, we make ranked choices every day of our lives. Shouldn't we have the same power to rank candidates for public office? Ranked choice voting just makes sense. In 2013 and 2014 Eagleton Poll at Rutgers University surveyed voters in RCV cities reactions to RCV. The 2013 survey showed that 90% of respondents found the RCV ballot easy to understand. Similarly, in 2014, 89% of respondents found the RCV ballot easy to understand. In the 2013 Minneapolis elections more than 99% of voters cast a valid ballot, the same as in all mayoral 4 elections with RCV  in Oakland and San Francisco.

How does ranked choice voting affect communities of color?

An independent study performed by St. Cloud State University in 2009 reported that 95% of Minneapolis voters found ranked choice voting easy to use, and 97% of voters of color found using a ranked choice ballot simple.

RCV has been upheld by the Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and has been used in Bay Area cities while the number of elected people of color has soared.

Does data support the argument that RCV reduces negative campaigning in jurisdictions where it has been adopted?

In 2014, a study by professors at the University of Iowa and Western Washington University found that voters in RCV cities reported less negative campaigns than in cities that did not use RCV. In RCV cities, 42% of voters found the campaign season to be less negative, compared to 28% of voters in cities without RCVs. Clear majorities of voters in all cities with RCV that were part of the study supported this reform.

This is important in fostering positive attitudes among the public towards the democratic process. Furthermore, as candidates seek second and third choices, they must reach out beyond their traditional base and engage with a greater number of voters, naturally bringing more people into the democratic process. After Portland’s first RCV election in Maine, the Portland Press Herald called RCV a winner and said “A candidate with a hot-button neighborhood issue could have run away with the election without ever meeting a voter from another part of town. Under the ranked-choice system, candidates were forced to engage with each other and talk to each other’s voters. The result was an interesting conversation about Portland and its future.”

Does RCV affect voter turnout?

In the comprehensive study of 26 American cities and a full range of offices across 79 elections, professors at the University of Missouri - St. Louis found ranked choice voting  maintained strong levels of turnout in general elections and that RCV increased turnout in elections when compared to primary and runoff elections of similar cities without RCV. They found no evidence that RCV hurts turnout among any groups, including communities of color and low-income voters. Especially when used to avoid low turnout primary and runoffs, RCV ensures that decisive elections take place when the most voters participate.

Does RCV produces fair results?

Ranked choice has been proven in thousands of elections. Every voter would do best to do what the ballot instructions suggest: rank candidates in their honest order of preference, knowing that ranking a candidate as their 2nd choice would not hurt the chances of their 1st choice.




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