Santa Fe voters were strongly supportive of the city’s first use of ranked choice voting (RCV) in its March 6 mayoral and city council elections, according to a new election analysis report released today by FairVote New Mexico.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their voting experience, while only four percent of respondents said they were unsatisfied. Seventy-one percent said they support using ranked choice voting in future elections, and nearly nine-in-ten voters reported ranking more than one candidate. Voter turnout was the highest it’s been in the last four mayoral elections since 2006.
The Election Day survey was conducted by FairVote New Mexico with consultation from University of New Mexico Professor Lonna Atkeson, to establish if voters understood and liked the new voting system and whether they would like to expand its use. More than 1,300 voters were surveyed, and overall the exit poll found a series of positive responses.
Voters were determined to be using ranked choice voting effectively, including 99.9 percent of those casting ballots in the mayoral race, casting a valid first choice; 99.7 percent of all voters at the polls deciding to voter for mayor; and 96 percent of those voters choosing to rank enough choices on their ballots to have their vote count for a candidate in the final “instant runoff” after the elimination of three candidates who collectively earned more than 38 percent of the mayoral votes.
More than 84 percent said the new RCV ballot was not confusing, while only 6 percent said very confusing. Seven-in-ten respondents said they support “using ranked choice voting in future city elections” (70.7 percent “yes,” 29.4 percent “no”).
“We’re very pleased to have the findings confirm our perception that Santa Fe voters like ranked choice voting and made effective use of their rankings,” said FairVote New Mexico Director Maria Perez. “Our work is not over, of course. We will be active heading into the 2020 elections in Santa Fe to increase those numbers and to work in partnership with city election officials toward that goal. With New Mexico using the same voting machines statewide, other cities will have an opportunity to give voters this same positive experience, with reduced negative campaigning, increased voter engagement and more civil and substantive discourse.”
Candidates were seen by voters to effectively conduct their campaigns with the new system as well. More than 76 percent of voters had a candidate or campaign ask to be a second or third choice; less than five reported that a candidate asked them to only vote for one. Sixty-nine percent voters said that the candidates spent “very little time” or “none of the time” criticizing their opponents.” Nearly seven-in-ten voters said the campaigns were “more positive” (34.2 percent “much more positive,” 33.2 percent “somewhat more positive”).
The survey of voters leaving the polls on Election Day, March 6 was conducted by 27 volunteers covering eight voting centers for the entire polling day and two for a half-day each. Respondents participated at random. The questionnaires were then collected and provided to Dr. Yuri Bosin from the University of New Mexico, who was responsible for data entry and returning the data to FairVote New Mexico. FairVote New Mexico then worked FairVote staff in generating the survey results.
You can see more information on Santa Fe’s 2018 municipal election at http://www.fairvote.org/fairvote_newmexico#2018_election