Voices & Choices

Ranked Choice Voting and Proportional Representation: Successes from Eastpointe, Michigan

Ranked Choice Voting and Proportional Representation: Successes from Eastpointe, Michigan

In 2019, the City of Eastpointe, Michigan adopted proportional ranked choice voting (RCV) as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Federal Voting Rights Act. It has now been used in two city-wide elections: In 2019, proportional RCV was used to elect two councilmembers, and in 2020, single-winner RCV was used to fill a vacant seat.  

An 2019 exit poll found the system was very popular with Eastpointe voters: 86% found the ranked choice ballot simple to use, 83% reported being satisfied with their choices, and 69% supported using RCV in the future to elect two representatives. The poll also found that attitudes towards the reform did not differ between voters of color and white voters.

Despite broad support from Eastpointe voters, the future of RCV in Eastpointe is uncertain. The settlement with the DOJ is set to expire at the end of 2021, and the city council and the DOJ would both need to agree to an extension to keep the system. Earlier this year, the city council voted 3-2 to not advance an advisory question to Eastpointe voters on whether to keep the system. 

In our analysis of the 2019 election results and exit poll, we found that

  1. Voter turnout increased
  2. African American voters had an influence in the outcome of the election
  3. RCV encouraged candidates to appeal to historically underrepresented communities - including the Black community in Eastpointe 
  4. RCV has demonstrated support across the community - regardless of race -- 69% of voters supported using ranked choice voting to elect two members of city council

At the moment it’s unclear if Eastpointe will continue to use proportional RCV to elect council members, but several things are certain: RCV was embraced by Eastpointe voters, turnout was up, and it incentivized candidates to engage voters who otherwise might not have been engaged in local politics. 

See our 2-pager below for a more comprehensive analysis of proportional representation and ranked choice voting in Eastpointe.

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