Voices & Choices

How to build a successful RCV movement: Lessons from Fort Collins

How to build a successful RCV movement: Lessons from Fort Collins

The Fort Collins City Council, by a vote of 6 to 1, approved the referral of ranked choice voting (RCV) to the November 2022 ballot. As more people run for City Council and Mayor, winners are selected with as little as 25% of the vote. The Council recognized that not only do we need our elected officials to win with broad support, but we need to do something to engage younger residents to get involved in local elections. 1,000 people signed a postcard to Council asking them to refer RCV to the ballot, and our Council listened!

To win this council vote, we spent mornings outside the Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday for 4 months straight and gathered signatures on 1,000 postcards. The postcards were addressed to Council (signers clicked off a box next to their Councilmembers name) and asked Council to please refer RCV to the ballot.

The beauty of the postcard exercise was that it gave us an "ask" for people who approached our table. We had no intention of collecting 10,000 signatures for a citizens initiative; ballot referral was imperative.  Our town has an 85% success rate for council-referred measures vs a 33% success rate for citizen initiatives. The postcard data (names, email addresses and phone numbers) was collected into our supporter database and used to rally support for City Council meetings, etc.

Members of our team met with City Councilmembers during and after their elections.  We got to know them over the past few years and knew where each stood on RCV.  Maintaining a relationship with as many of them as we could was important to gaining the 6 to 1 vote for ballot referral. The City Council has a ton of very important issues on their plates, so it really took a village to keep up communication with our contacts and make sure this stayed on the agenda. We persisted and pushed it through.

We stressed the importance of having all of our Council elected with a majority.  Our messaging in this campaign was basically "Let the people vote!" In the end, one Council member said "The amount of passion on both sides of this topic probably means that we ought to go to the voters to make the decision."

As for our opposition, they kicked up their anti-RCV campaign in October 2021, about 6 months after we formed our group. This kind of development is to be expected: any time a new idea takes hold, an opposition movement will grow to meet it. We know this is a natural part of building a movement. The opponents have a website, which means we post "myth busters" on our social media accounts addressing each of their talking points. These posts get the most attention of all of our social media activities.

Now we need to gather as many volunteers as we can to spread the word and bring in those YES votes in November! Get involved at RCV for Fort Collins.


Robbie Moreland is the Management Lead at RCV for Fort Collins.

Photo of Fort Collins from Citycommunications at English Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


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