Posted by Rich Robinson on November 08, 2017 at 5:09 PM


November 8, 2017

Contact: Rich Robinson, [email protected] or 301.270.4616

Election Day 2017 Takeaway: Ranked Choice Voting Encourages Voters To Make Their Voice Heard

Four cities where voters use RCV show impressive turnout gains;
Maine reformers collect signatures to bring RCV back for June primaries

WASHINGTON -- Voters love having more choice at the polls.

That’s one of the important takeaways from Tuesday’s dramatic elections. While the Democratic wave in Virginia dominated national news, voters across the country also flocked to vote in important city elections where ranked choice voting is used. Turnout surged in each of these cities in their ranked choice voting races, and several incumbents were defeated.

“When voters have better options, democracy wins,” said FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie. “Everyone comes away feeling as if their vote mattered and their voice was heard. FairVote’s analysis of races in four cities across the United States that use ranked choice voting showed that expectations of voter participation were exceeded every time this week. These exciting examples -- from Massachusetts to Maryland and Minnesota -- underscore that voters not only understand RCV, but are more likely to vote when given genuine, meaningful choices.”

The next jurisdiction likely to hold RCV elections is Maine, which will use it for all state and federal primaries in June 2018 if Maine reformers are successful in their effort to secure enough signatures to trigger of a recent law postponing implementation of RCV. Reports from Maine suggest that many signatures were gathered at the polls yesterday.

Here is a rundown of yesterday’s ranked choice voting elections.


Forty-three percent of registered voters cast ballots, up 10 percent from 2013 to what city clerk Casey Carl said “is easily a new record for an off-year election, and was comparable to an election year when there is a statewide race.” Election officials had to order more ballots after several precincts started to run low, due to higher than expected turnout. Additionally, one of the city’s smallest precincts surpassed 30 percent turnout by mid-afternoon.

In the mayoral race, City Councilman Jacob Frey received 46,716 votes in the final instant runoff, besting his closest rival, Minnesota State Rep. Raymond Dehn (34,971), 57 to 43 percent. Incumbent Betsy Hodges finished third, and three city council incumbents were defeated.

St. Paul

Across the Mississippi River, St. Paul experienced its highest turnout in at least two decades, with more than 61,000 voters, representing nearly 40 percent of the city’s registered voters. With a field of 10 candidates running for mayor, Melvin Carter garnered 31,353 votes, earning him a 51 percent majority over second-place finisher Pat Harris, who got 25 percent (15,281).

Cambridge, Mass.

More than 21,000 ballots were cast this year (representing 32 percent of registered voters), a 20 percent increase from the 2015 elections.

Takoma Park, Md.

According to city clerk Jessie Carpenter, Ward 2, the only race with a three-candidate contest, had a record-high turnout of about 40 percent of registered voters.

FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.

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