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Cambridge, MA Choice Voting Elections Once Again Provide Fair Racial Representation and Voter Choice

Cambridge City Council 2004Choice voting has been in use for City Council and School Committee elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts since 1941. The city's proportional voting system has consistently provided the city's African American population with fair representation on the council, while encouraging a diversity of political perspectives. This November, the Cambridge Election Commission conducted yet another successful election using this fair and effective electoral system, and both African American councilors were re-elected in a city where that population makes up only 12% of the population. Notably, the ranked ballot feature of choice voting allowed the two African American candidates to win on the 11th and final round of counting with the crossover support of other defeated candidates. Additionally, the electoral system made many of the races competitive, insofar as one of the incumbents was defeated and after nine rounds of elimination, only four of the nine candidates were elected. The remaining five seats were filled with the support of the defeated candidates' voters in the last two rounds of counting. Nevertheless, the council is still a stable body, with eight of its nine members returning in the next session. Similar results occurred for the School Committee, where the African American incumbent was re-elected in the fifth round, and two of six incumbents were defeated.

While this November's elections nationwide also witnessed the sputtering of the independent redistricting reform movement in states where it was on the ballot, voters and reformers alike are still interested in achieving better elections. As a result, the time has come to entertain the use of  proportional voting systems like choice voting throughout the nation. Cambridge's history with the system demonstrates that fair representation, competition, voter choice, and cooperative politics do not have to be mutually exclusive.

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