Voices & Choices

Voters approve ranked choice voting in five cities

Voters approve ranked choice voting in five cities

All five cities that held referendums to adopt ranked choice voting (RCV) yesterday passed them by wide margins, even as RCV was defeated in a Massachusetts vote. The result in Alaska remains unclear as most votes have not yet been counted.

As of Wednesday afternoon, RCV has passed in Albany and Eureka, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Bloomington and Minnetonka, Minnesota. Voters in all five cities recognized that RCV is a simple change that can have a big impact. It makes our elections more engaging and their results more representative.

In Boulder, RCV will be used to choose the city’s mayor by popular vote. Previously, the mayor was chosen by the city council from among its own members. The initial results suggest Boulder adopted RCV by a 3 to 1 margin, with Our Mayor Our Choice leading the campaign.

Bloomington will use RCV to replace its expensive, low turnout primary elections. Advocates hope RCV will encourage citizens to become more engaged in general elections and give them a greater voice in local politics. 

Bloomington and Minnetonka make Minnesota one of the nation’s RCV hotspots. They join Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis Park in using the system. Local advocates like FairVote Minnesota have been critical to RCV’s success in the state.

Albany’s referendum centered on the multi-winner form of RCV, which would select members of the city council and school board on a proportional basis. The council unanimously placed it on the ballot to help the government better reflect the views of the entire city. Current results show a blowout there, with 72 percent in favor of the reform. Albany and Eureka bring the number of California cities using RCV to seven.

Although RCV fell short in Massachusetts, the Yes on 2 campaign has a lot to be proud of. Its volunteers gathered thousands of signatures during a pandemic to put RCV on the ballot, then worked to introduce Bay Staters to a system that was new to many of them. RCV picked up major endorsements along the way from members of Congress, former Governors, and U.S. Senators. 

“Ranked choice provides many benefits at all levels. Research shows more women and people of color run and win with this reform. Because candidates seek second place votes, negative campaigning is diminished. Barriers for new competition will be reduced for candidates outside of both major parties.” - Op-Ed by Former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld and entrepreneur Andre Yang 

Results are still out in Alaska’s RCV referendum. The state does not begin counting absentee votes until next week, which could affect the outcome.

FairVote is thrilled by the overwhelming success of RCV at the local level, and we expect this crucial reform to expand even further in the upcoming years. Burlington, Vermont seems set to hold an RCV referendum in the Spring, coinciding with its local elections - and several other cities could put it on the ballot after that.

 

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