Duluth citizens go to the polls on Nov. 3 to elect city council members and a new mayor. But the hottest race isn’t over a political office. It’s over how future city elections should take place. Duluth voters will decide whether to follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis and St. Paul and adopt ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting lets citizens choose up to three candidates and rank them first, second and third among all the candidates in an election.
The D.C. Council will consider changing the way the District of Columbia conducts its elections. Independent Councilmember David Grosso introduced a bill on Tuesday calling for instant-runoff voting in elections for mayor, the council and attorney general.
A bill to end the city’s current primary runoff system could put an end to the pricey, low-turnout process by the next mayoral election in 2017, potentially saving the city millions, advocates say. Many voters and elected officials were outraged last fall when the city had to spend more than $13 million dollars on a single runoff between then-City Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Dan Squadron — after neither candidate got more than the required 40 percent of the vote for Democratic Public Advocate. Under the new system, primary voters would rank candidates in order of preference in a process known as instant-runoff voting, or IRV, in the voting booth on primary day. The candidate with the least support gets dropped, and the vote for that candidate gets transferred to the voter’s next choice. The process continues until a candidate reaches the 40 percent threshold.
A new initiative looking to adopt a ranked ballot system to Toronto’s electoral system just got one step closer to approval at Queen’s Park on Thursday. Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter tabled a private member’s bill that would allow Toronto to adopt a ranked voting system – where voters rank candidates in order of preference – instead of the current “first-past-the post” system. Bill 166 passed second reading on Thursday afternoon and will now be sent to the legislature’s social policy committee for further study.
The crowded field of candidates for D.C. mayor opens up the possibility that the winner of the upcoming Democratic primary will have less than a majority of votes. Perhaps as little as 30 percent of the total vote could spell victory. Obviously, that would not be ideal. More people voting against the winner than for the winner seems a strange way for democracy to operate. While it is too late to change the rules for this year’s elections, the District’s political leaders need to look ahead to future contests and put in place reforms that require a majority vote.
The numbers are attention-getting: on Tuesday, New York City will spend about $13 million to hold a runoff in the Democratic primary for an office, public advocate, that is budgeted only $2.3 million a year. And the combination of a little-known post with a little-understood election process is expected to lead to startlingly low turnout — maybe 100,000 to 175,000 voters, in a city of 8 million people. Yet the election is likely to determine the occupant of one of the city’s top offices, because there is no Republican candidate. The high cost of an election for a low-cost office has inspired wags to muse. Some have suggested that the race be decided by a coin toss. Others, including the Republican nominee for mayor, Joseph J. Lhota, have joked that, because the public advocate has few concrete powers, the two candidates could be allowed to serve, at a saving to taxpayers. But some elected officials and government reform advocates have suggested a longer-term solution: instead of holding costly, low-turnout runoffs, New York City should switch to instant runoff voting, a system already used in other cities.
Maine: Bill to create Maine presidential primary, adopt ranked-choice voting comes with hefty price tag | Bangor Daily News
Maine would replace party caucuses with a nonpartisan presidential primary and elect its governor, legislators and federal officials with ranked-choice voting under a system proposed Monday in the Legislature. The multimillion-dollar cost of implementing the bill could prove to be its biggest challenge, given the state’s financial situation, according to the state’s election chief. Rep. Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, who introduced LD 1422 to the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday, said that his proposal would eliminate the state’s caucusing and party-by-party primary system in favor of a single primary election in which candidates would have the option of declaring their party membership or not. Rykerson said the system would prompt more voters to cast ballots based on the candidate and not his or her political party.
Congratulations to D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D) for winning Tuesday’s special at-large election and also to Elissa Silverman (D) for a strong showing as a first-time candidate. But the abysmal voter turnout that saw a winner supported by roughly 3 percent of eligible voters must prompt concern about how these elections are held. Not only does the District need to examine how to boost voter participation but it also should move to a system of instant-runoff voting. Ms. Bonds did not receive our backing in the campaign to serve the at-large council term vacated when Phil Mendelson (D) was elected chairman, but we hope she succeeds in meeting her election-night pledge to bring people together to help meet the city’s potential. It’s also clear from the way Ms. Silverman’s campaign resonated that she could have a political future, one that should be followed with interest. By contrast, prospects for the future of the local Republican Party appear dim with the third-place finish of GOP standard-bearer Patrick Mara.
Minnesota: Minneapolis ranked-choice voting could give independent candidates a new way to attract voters | MinnPost
Few would bet against a DFLer winning the Minneapolis mayor’s race in November. But with ranked-choice voting, the odds have improved some for independent candidate Cam Winton, who has referred to himself as a moderate Republican and whose platform pushes such conservative policies as improving the business climate and the efficiency of city services. The city’s ranked-choice voting uses a nonpartisan ballot ranking that allows a voter to choose a first, second, and third preference for mayor. As Community Voices contributor Jeffrey Peterson explained on MinnPost last month: “In a single-seat election, if no candidate receives a majority (50 percent plus one) of first choices, the least popular candidate is eliminated and his or her ballots get reallocated to remaining candidates based on their voters’ next choices. This process continues until one candidate earns a majority of support.”
Two legislators have joined forces to support a single bill to establish ranked-choice voting in Maine. The election-law bill submitted by Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, is now co-sponsored by Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, who submitted similar draft legislation at the beginning of the year. Woodbury said the bill has generated notable public interest. “I think the fact that the next govorner’s race is shaping up to have Eliot Cutler as a prominent independent is increasing people’s interest in making sure there is some kind of narrowing down of the system, so that the ultimate winner of that race has the majority support of the people,” he said.
So long, spoilers.That’s the message two Yarmouth legislators hope to send with legislation aimed at eliminating the chances of electing statewide candidates with less than a majority vote. Freshman Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, and veteran legislator Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, have submitted draft legislation for ranked-choice voting to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Today, there are more third-party and unenrolled candidates, and the current system doesn’t work well when there’s a broader range,” Woodbury said. “I think that it tends to give an advantage to candidates that are more at the party extremes, and are less moderate, which can lead to candidates winning with less than 50 percent of the support from voters.”
So long, spoilers. That’s the message two Yarmouth legislators hope to send with legislation aimed at eliminating the chances of electing statewide candidates with less than a majority vote. Freshman Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, and veteran legislator Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, have submitted draft legislation for ranked-choice voting to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Today, there are more third-party and unenrolled candidates, and the current system doesn’t work well when there’s a broader range,” Woodbury said. “I think that it tends to give an advantage to candidates that are more at the party extremes, and are less moderate, which can lead to candidates winning with less than 50 percent of the support from voters.”
Takoma Park’s instant runoff voting system was put to the test for the first time July 17 for the Ward 5 special election. The city instituted the system in 2006, but this year marks the first election where three or more candidates did not earn a majority of the vote. Of the 189 votes cast in the election, winner Jarrett Smith received 97 votes and runner-up Eric Hensal garnered 80 votes. Third-place finisher Melinda Ulloa received 33 votes, 13 of which went to Smith in the second round and nine to Hensal. In the instant runoff voting system, voters have the option to rank their first, second and third choice candidates. When no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the votes, second-choice votes for backers of the third-place finisher are added to the first- and second-place finishers.
In the past 10 years, four California cities have embraced ranked-choice voting, the system of computerized runoff elections that boosters say streamlines and reforms local politics. Almost as soon as the new systems were in place, critics began trying to roll ranked-choice voting back. Opponents are ready to go back at it this week. Tomorrow officials in San Francisco are scheduled to consider measures that would modify the new high-tech voting system. The Oakland City Council was asked to consider a measure tomorrow that would have abolished rank-choice voting entirely in that city. But Mayor Jean Quan blocked it from coming before the council, said Terry Reilly, a former San Jose election official and a ranked-choice voting opponent. In a ranked-choice election, voters get three weighted choices for each office on the ballot. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the first-choice votes, a computerized “instant runoff” is held to select the winner.
This November will be Oakland’s second election using ranked-choice voting, but if Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente gets his way, it could be the last. De La Fuente wants council members next week to place an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to rescind the voting system and return to holding runoff elections when no candidate wins an absolute majority. But De La Fuente doesn’t appear to have the votes to get the measure on the ballot, and he likely won’t even be able to keep the proposal on the council’s agenda. Ranked-choice elections ask voters to rank their top three candidates. When no candidate wins more than half of the first-place votes, the second- and third-place votes are tabulated, avoiding the need for runoff elections.
It looks as if the effort to repeal ranked-choice voting in Oakland has unraveled already. A group with close ties to ex-state Senator Don Perata’s campaign manager admitted to the Oakland Tribune that it won’t be able to gather the 20,000 signatures needed to qualify its proposal for the November ballot. And an alternative plan by Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime close friend and ally of Perata’s, to ask the city council to place the measure directly on the ballot does not have the necessary votes. De La Fuente, who plans to run for mayor this fall if there’s a recall election, has been a longtime opponent of ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting. He worked with Perata in 2010 in an attempt to block Oakland from using it, even though 69 percent of city voters had approved the voting system. Perata later blamed ranked-choice voting for his loss in the 2010 mayor’s race to Jean Quan. Perata received more first-place votes than Quan did, but she garnered far more seconds and thirds, enabling her to win.
California: San Francisco Supervisors tangle over whether to kill or change ranked-choice elections this year | SF Public Press
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors wrestled with changing the way the city elects mayors, district representatives and other officials. Two proposals would give San Francisco voters a choice: expand the instant – runoff voting system, in use since 2004, or return to a general election with a possible later top two runoff. On Feb. 14, the Board of Supervisors tabled Supervisor Mark Farrell’s proposal to repeal ranked-choice voting on a 6-5 vote. At the same meeting, Supervisor David Campos’ measure to amend the system was sent back to the Rules Committee on a unanimous vote. On March 6, Farrell introduced a modified proposal that would abolish ranked-choice voting in all citywide races, except for district supervisors. Both measures could see a vote on the November 2012 ballot. Why does this matter? Opponents of ranked-choice say the relatively novel approach still confuses voters. Opponents of the two-election approach say it wastes money.
Once Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination contest, their South Carolina and Florida backers who cast ballots early, including many military voters living overseas, essentially wasted their votes. They voted for candidates who didn’t want their support. Florida and South Carolina voters are not alone. Several upcoming primary states allow “no excuse required” absentee voting, meaning a far higher percentage of votes are now cast early. More than a quarter of Florida’s 400,000 absentee ballots had already been returned before Perry and Huntsman withdrew, and in 2008 nearly two-thirds of all Tennessee ballots were cast early. If you add in other states, more than a million voters have received ballots with the names of Perry, Huntsman and fellow candidate dropouts Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Although many “early voters” cast ballots close to Election Day, that option isn’t available to service personnel whose ballot may need to traverse 10,000 miles.
Two dueling ballot measures to change San Francisco’s election system will go in front of the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. San Francisco’s current ranked-choice voting system allows voters to rank up to three candidates for each elected office, and those with the lowest vote totals are eliminated and their second- and third-place votes are reassigned until someone has a majority of the votes. But the two charter amendments being considered by the board to put on the June ballot are proposing to either overhaul the current system or make small tweaks and keep ranked-choice voting in the city.
The results are in: San Francisco voters have trouble with ranked-choice elections. Despite a $300,000 educational campaign leading up to last month’s elections, including a new smiley-face mascot, publicity events, and advertising on buses and in newspapers, only one-third of voters on Nov. 8 filled out all three choices in all three races, according to an analysis released this week by the University of San Francisco.
Under the city’s system, voters were asked to rank their top three choices for mayor, sheriff and district attorney. Perhaps the analysis’ most troubling finding is that 9 percent of voters, mostly in Chinatown and southeastern neighborhoods like the Bayview, marked only one choice for each office, either because they considered only one candidate suitable or because they did not know how to fill out their ballot correctly.
Before the final vote tabulations were made, a Southern California man emailed the Bangor Daily News with a prediction about the Portland mayoral race from afar. Terry Reilly, an outspoken nationwide critic of Portland’s newly implemented ranked choice voting system, predicted the winner would end up with about 8,000 votes from the nearly 20,000 ballots cast in the mayoral race. Less than a majority.
The use of ranked choice voting is under fire in Reilly’s state, specifically in San Francisco, with an opposition group working to put a repeal question before voters as early as next year. There, voter turnout waned and campaigning reportedly turned negative this fall. Opponents say ranked choice voting hasn’t delivered on what its supporters promised when it was installed about seven years ago.
For all those San Franciscans outraged that they could only mark their three top choices in last month’s election for mayor, help is on the way. A proposed charter amendment by Supervisor David Campos clears the way for voters to rank five, 10, 20 or more candidates in upcoming ranked-choice elections.
Campos’ measure, which is designed to counter a proposed June ballot measure by supervisors Mark Farrell and Sean Elsbernd that would end ranked-choice voting in the city, calls for any new voting equipment to allow ranking of more than the current three choices, up to the total number of candidates.
If that happens, the city might want to add chairs to the voting booths, since the mayor’s race featured 16 candidates and ranking them all might take awhile. Then there was last year’s District 10 race out in the Bayview, where 21 hopefuls appeared on the ballot. Try ranking that crew in order of preference.
California: San Francisco Board of Supervisors breaks ranks on voting system | San Francisco Examiner
Progressive members of the Board of Supervisors are considering ways to derail a proposal to eliminate San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system. As Tuesday’s deadline approaches for supervisors to submit proposed charter amendments for the June ballot, City Hall insiders say Supervisor David Campos is considering a measure to compete with Supervisor Mark Farrell’s plan to eliminate ranked-choice voting and revert back to runoff elections.
Campos declined to discuss his thoughts Friday, but confirmed that he is thinking about such a measure.
Meanwhile, fellow progressive Supervisor John Avalos said he hopes to deprive Farrell’s measure of the six board votes needed to place it on the June ballot. “I think it might be best to make sure that it doesn’t go forward,” Avalos said. Farrell introduced his measure on Election Day, saying, “Almost a decade later, massive numbers of San Franciscans continue to be confused about our voting process in The City.”
When Telluride voters hit the polls on Tuesday, they opened up a different looking town ballot. Instead of just marking their favorite mayoral candidate like usual, voters were asked to rank the candidates by first, second and third preference.
It represented the town’s first foray into instant runoff voting, a rare type of voting that’s used in elections in which more than two candidates are running for one spot, such as mayor. Instant runoff voting, or IRV, is a ranked system designed to help ensure a true majority win and eliminate the “Nadar effect” that can happen in a three-way race.
Portland’s first experiment with ranked choice voting is being called a success, one day after Former State Senator Mike Brennan was declared the winner. Brennan’s win was announced almost exactly 24 hours after the polls closed. But so far, the biggest complaint about this first election using ranked choice voting in Portland has been that vote counting took longer than anyone realized.
In fact, the city clerk’s office was still making sure the ballots were counted correctly early Thursday afternoon. The good news is, though, no one seems to be doubting the accuracy of the system or who the winner is.
Voters in San Francisco will use a system called ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff, to elect a mayor on Tuesday. The city is one of many around the country, including Portland, Maine, and Telluride, Colo., using the system, which allows voters to rank their favorite candidates; the winner is determined using a complicated mathematical formula. Ranked-choice voting, which eliminates the need for primary elections, will be put to the test in San Francisco where 16 candidates are on the ballot.
At a city senior center recently, elections worker John Draper explained the system to some elderly voters, assuring them that it was simple. “We just want to ask ourselves: Who do we want to win this election; Who is our favorite candidate? And vote for them in the first column,” Draper said.
Karla Jones knows that voting in the upcoming election for San Francisco mayor won’t be as simple as completing the arrow next to one name. She’ll have to pick a first, second and third-choice candidate. “It’s more choices to make and now you’ve got to get to know three of them,” Jones said on the first day City Hall opened for early voting in the Nov. 8 election for the city’s mayor, district attorney and sheriff.
Jones was there to pick up some brochures that explain the ranked-choice voting system — also known as the instant runoff — so she could better understand the process before returning to cast her vote. “It’s good for the city in terms of cost, but it’s harder on the voter,” Jones said with a sigh. “I’ve got to go home and study now.”
St. Paul voters will make history in three weeks when they vote for their favorite candidate in the City Council elections. And some will then vote for their second favorite. And third. Maybe fourth.
Welcome to Ranked Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, the new way to count ballots that’s coming to the council elections in St. Paul on Nov. 8.
Advocates say it’s a way to ensure more voter participation and eliminate the need for a primary election. It also means that a candidate who wins in each of the city’s seven wards will have a majority of the votes cast, unlike what we’ve seen in recent Minnesota gubernatorial elections with third-party candidates.
Voting Blogs: Portland Maine’s Instant-Runoff Mayoral Election: Innovative Voting, Constitutional Questions | State of Elections
On November 8, 2011, Portland, Maine residents will vote for mayor for the first time in nearly a century. For the past 88 years, Portland’s city councilors annually appointed the mayor. However, last year Portland residents voted to popularly elect the mayor. The impetus behind the change is the hope that an elected mayor will carry more political clout in Augusta, the State Capitol. This sudden creation of a very powerful political figure is drawing lots of attention from academics assessing the potential political impacts.
However, the election changes more than just Maine’s political balance and who chooses the mayor. It also establishes a controversial voting procedure for how the mayor is chosen. The 2011 mayor race will use instant-runoff voting (IRV), which encompasses voters’ preferential choices. Here’s how IRV works: each voter votes for as many candidates as he wants, ranking them from his first to last preference. The instant runoff ballot might look like this. Once the votes are collected, voters’ first choices are tallied. If any candidate carries more than 50% of the vote, then that candidate wins. However, given that there are 16 candidates in Portland’s mayoral race, it is extremely unlikely that one candidate will carry the necessary 50% of the vote. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, then the candidate receiving the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated, and his votes are redistributed to the candidates his voters ranked as their second choice. This process is repeated from the bottom up until one candidate carries the necessary majority.
Steven Hill is not on San Francisco’s November ballot, but few actual candidates have been as influential, or controversial, in this year’s election. Mr. Hill, an author and public speaker, is considered the guru of ranked-choice voting, a system that creates an instant-runoff by having voters select their top three favorite candidates in order of preference. The system was adopted in San Francisco in 2004, but this election is the first time it will be employed in a competitive mayoral race in the city, since Gavin Newsom ran without serious opposition in 2007.
Mr. Hill, who travels the world promoting changes in electoral systems, said that ranked-choice voting improved turnout, saved money by avoiding expensive, and usually poorly attended, runoff elections and encouraged politicians to reach out to more-diverse constituencies. “You need both a strong core of support to avoid being eliminated in the first round, plus a broad base,” Mr. Hill said.
The system has made campaigning more complex. If no candidate gets a majority, the person at the bottom of the poll is dropped and the second and third choices of his supporters are added to the tallies of the remaining candidates. This continues until someone reaches 50 percent. In some cases, candidates who were not the first choice of a large majority of voters have been elected.