Voices & Choices

Ranked choice voting elections to watch in 2021

Ranked choice voting elections to watch in 2021

In the last few years, there has been a surge in cities choosing to enact ranked choice voting (RCV) for their municipal elections. This November, an historic number of cities will use RCV for their elections -- from mayor to city council to school board. In Utah alone this year, 23 cities chose to opt-in to an RCV pilot program. 12 more cities outside of Utah are using RCV, three for the first time. 

Here are a few of the most notable and competitive RCV races to keep an eye on this fall. 

Minnesota’s two largest cities have used RCV for at least a decade, and its 5th largest city will join them this year. Minneapolis adopted RCV in 2006, and each of the 22 offices on the municipal ballot are elected using RCV. In 2021, the most watched race in Minneapolis will be the highly-contested mayoral election. This race will likely be extremely competitive, with a current slate of 17 candidates, including incumbent Jacob Frey. Polls have shown that Minneapolis voters have divided opinions about incumbent Jacob Frey, with 35% favorable opinions and 36% unfavorable opinions. This margin indicates, an incumbent victory isn’t assured, and this race will surely be one to watch. You can find a full list of candidate filings here. To stay up to date on RCV news in Minneapolis and across the state, including RCV’s use in St. Paul’s mayoral election and in the cities of Bloomington and Minnetonka that are using RCV for the first time, check out FairVote Minnesota.

Salt Lake City, UT was one of 23 jurisdictions in Utah where the city council voted to implement RCV for its 2021 elections, making Utah the state with the greatest rate of RCV adoption. 18 cities had enough candidates to result in use of RCV. As a major US city, and the state capital, Salt Lake City will be a heavily-watched municipality during its 2021 RCV elections. There are several competitive city council races to watch, including for districts 1, 2, and 5. There will be 19 candidates running for Salt Lake City Council, and you can read more about them here.

Stan Lockhart, former Chair of the Utah Republican Party and advocate with Utah Ranked Choice Voting, expressed his support for the advancement of RCV across the state. “Good governance starts locally, which is why we’re thrilled so many Utah cities have embraced ranked choice voting,” Lockhart said. “This will be an opportunity for Utahns to test out ranked choice voting ballots for themselves, and we’re confident that Utahns will appreciate being offered back-up choices in the ballot box.”

In her campaigning process, Jackie Morgan, campaign manager for incumbent Councilman Darin Mano, has been traveling door-to-door with sample ballots for voters to practice filling out. Morgan says “People seem to inherently understand it once you tell them it’s occurring. It’s different and it’s new, but I think Salt Lake City is well-prepared to handle it.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico’s third largest city, first implemented RCV in 2018, with 94% of voters stating they were satisfied with their RCV voting experience, according to a poll overseen by the University of New MexicoThis poll also showed other positive benefits of RCV. 67.4% of voters agreed that the tone of the 2018 campaigns was more positive than past elections. In the 2018 Santa Fe Election, voter turnout was 38.01% which represented an increase of roughly 8-10% in comparison to the elections of 2006, 2010, and 2014.

This year will be the second major test of RCV in the New Mexico state capital. The mayoral race, currently with a slate of 3 candidates, and the race for city council district 1, with a slate of 4 candidates, will likely be the most exciting and competitive elections. The state’s second largest city of Las Cruces also is having another round of RCV elections. Learn more about RCV in New Mexico at Common Cause New Mexico

Other notable RCV elections include a first-time use in Easthampton (MA), city council elections in Maine’s largest city of Portland, and another round of proportional RCV elections in Cambridge (MA), the city with the longest use of RCV in the United States

In addition to these upcoming RCV elections, three cities -- Ann Arbor, MI, Broomfield, CO, and Westbrook, ME --  will have RCV adoption measures on their November 2021 ballots. These ballot measures have the potential to further expand the reach of RCV in jurisdictions across the nation. 

To learn more about ranked choice voting, and to advocate for its adoption in your hometown, check out FairVote’s website. For a full list of American jurisdictions that use RCV, visit this page.


Image from flickr

This blog was updated on October 26, 2021

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