On Tuesday, December 1, FairVote hosted a webinar to analyze the exciting victories of ranked choice voting (RCV) ballot measures this year. The webinar was part of our Fall series on The Future of American Elections.
FairVote senior policy coordinator Pedro Hernandez moderated the event. It featured Scott Kendall, campaign counsel for Measure 2 for Alaska; Caroline Griffith, an activist and organizer who supported Measure C in Eureka, CA; and Preston Jordan, a geologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a council member-elect for Albany, CA.
In November 2020, voters approved RCV statewide in Alaska and locally in five cities from coast to coast. Just one RCV measure, in Massachusetts, was defeated. The panelists discussed how they were able to get RCV questions on the ballot and build winning coalitions of support.
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- Jordan describes how he and his allies convinced Albany’s charter review committee to recommend implementing multi-winner RCV, but the city council refused to act on the recommendation (7:58). They then formed Voter Choice Albany and began gathering signatures for an RCV ballot initiative. When the signature-gathering effort was shut down prematurely due to a coronavirus lockdown, they successfully pressured the council to relent and put an RCV question on the ballot.
- Kendall says that RCV and open primaries had appeal because over 62% of Alaska voters don’t affiliate with a party, giving the state a strong independent streak (14:13). Alaskans for Better Elections did a large amount of virtual voter education during the pandemic, and spent time talking with legislators, former governors, and Alaska native organizations to build a broad coalition of support. That outreach was crucial to victory (18:47).
- Griffith says that the North Coast People’s Alliance and other community groups already had connections with Eureka city council members, so the council was friendly towards their proposal for putting an RCV charter amendment on the ballot (20:56). Several local officials had recently run in elections with more than two candidates, so they understood why vote splitting can be problematic (22:32).
- Jordan shares that Voter Choice Albany kept its signature gathering pitch while canvassing simple because most voters understood the system easily (26:21). The campaign used sample ballots to show voters how it works, made literature in several languages, and did phone banking nightly. They explicitly talked about how multi-winner RCV would improve racial and class diversity on the city council (28:07).
- Kendall says that successful use of RCV in the Democratic presidential primary and getting endorsements from key community leaders were effective ways to show voters that RCV is trustworthy (31:02).
- Griffith explains that her group spent a long time before the pandemic discussing RCV with voters and local groups. Building up that trust early was extremely beneficial, making it easy to switch over to a digital campaign when the pandemic hit (47:40).
- Kendall stresses the importance of talking to all voters, not just those who are predisposed to agree with you (54:01).
If you want to watch the past webinars we have held this year, a full list can be found here.