For the first time in Santa Fe, New Mexico history, there will be a full-time mayor elected in March of 2018 with additional powers, duties and a higher salary. It is important that the majority of Santa Fe voters elect the new mayor with ranked choice voting (RCV), an electoral reform that was approved by city voters 9 years ago and has yet to be implemented.
In my oped featured in The New Mexican, I explained how RCV would ensure Santa Fe voters have more choice and a stronger voice in all city elections. When more than two candidates run in an election, as was the case for our last mayoral race and is likely to be the case for our next election, candidates can currently be elected without a majority of the vote (50%+1). Furthermore, RCV promotes fairer outcomes that are grounded in majority rule. Voters are given the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice--first, second, third, and so on--instead of having to pick just one. All first choices are counted, and if a candidate has a majority, then they win, just like any other election. However if nobody has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and those voters have their ballot instantly counted for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority of votes, and is declared the winner.
In 2014, Mayor Javier Gonzales won 43 percent of the vote on a three-way race. In other words, he won without a majority of support from voters. Gonzales supports RCV and stated that, “it’s important that people running for office have a mandate to lead, and the only way that can be achieved is through ranked voting where the ultimate winner has the support of a majority of the electorate.”
Our last mayoral race was very divisive and got quite bitter by election day. Voter's want civil campaigns and less negativity. An incentive for implementing RCV is that candidates will be campaigning not only to be a voter's first choice, but also to be second and even third choice in order to cross the finish line with a majority of the votes. This encourages candidates to find ways to reach out to their opponent's voters rather than alienating them. Candidates who have run and won in RCV elections have been successful because of coalition building and effective relationship building with all voters.
During a time where extreme partisanship is preventing our government, at all levels, from functioning properly and in service of the people, it is more important than ever to put systems in place that better protect our democracy.
The voters of Santa Fe have made their wishes clear: We want ranked choice voting in our city. We can’t wait any longer. It is time for our city government to implement this powerful electoral reform. In two weeks, the city council will make an important decision that will affect the future of ranked choice voting.
Take action today: Call Councilors Maestas and Villarreal to thank them for their leadership on this issue, and call Councilors Dominguez and Ives to ask them to give ranked choice voting implementation a chance!