Merits of ranked-choice voting explored during Edmonds presentation

The Edmonds Civic Roundtable hosted a discussion on ranked-choice voting Monday at the Edmonds Waterfront Center.

Are we willing to change the way we vote?  That question fueled the discussion at a Monday meeting sponsored by the Edmonds Civic Roundtable.

The discussion is about a possible major shift in the way we have always voted. It was billed as a look “at how we might vote or not vote in the future.” Proponents of what is called ranked-choice voting took the idea to some two dozen in the live audience at the Edmonds Waterfront Center; others joined via Zoom.

Lisa Ayrault, executive director of the group FairVote Washington, and her colleague, Eric Bidstrup, walked the audience through what ranked choice means. The group defines it this way:

“You get to ‘rank’ the (your) candidates in order of preference. Who do you want most? Rank them first. Who would you pick second? Rank them second, and so on. When the ballots are counted, if your first choice has the least support, then your vote automatically goes to your next choice to help them win.”

                  –FairVoteWA.org statement

You would still use just one ballot to mark who you want as your top candidate, your next choice, your third choice, etc. If your first choice doesn’t get enough support, your vote then goes to your second choice, and so on.

Lisa Ayrault

In most places, Ayrault added, ranked choice could combine the primary election and general election into a single vote. Maine and Alaska now use ranked-choice voting to decide all state and presidential races. Wyoming, Nevada, and Nebraska voted in their 2020 Presidential primaries using ranked choice. Last year, Minneapolis and New York City elected their new mayors that way.

Ayrault said ranked choice gives “more voice, more choice in a representative democracy that works for all of us.” As an example, she pointed out that 397,000 votes in the 2020 Washington Democratic Presidential primary went to candidates who had dropped out of the race before the primary; effectively “wasting the votes” of people who had turned in ballots. Had voters been able to rank their choices, first, second, third, etc. then their vote would still count by moving to the next candidate.

Ranked choice is making news because the Washington State Legislature is considering two bills that could give local communities the ability to use ranked-choice voting to conduct elections. You can read about Substitute House Bill 1156 here and Senate Bill 5584 here.

State law currently prohibits towns, cities and counties from using ranked choice. The two bills would not force communities to change their voting system, but would allow them to decide if they want to conduct local elections that way.

Edmonds resident David Preston challenged Ayrault, saying she is a “lobbyist” and pitching just one side of this issue. We checked and Ayrault is registered as a lobbyist with the State Public Disclosure Commission. However, she says her role as executive director of FairVote Washington is to explain the issue to voters, not lobby for it.

Preston suggested that there are people “who are very staunchly against this” and he took issue with the Edmonds Civic Roundtable (ECR), arguing that the group was “not being fair by not having both sides” present. Roger Pence, who set up the program for the ECR, said he had hoped to have the other side, but had not been able to find anyone to speak. He also added that this session was not a debate, just an introduction to ranked-choice voting.

The Edmonds Civic Roundtable, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, has as its stated mission “to inform and educate residents about key issues affecting local government and the community.”

Former Edmonds City Council candidate Janelle Cass wondered if now is the time to bring up ranked-choice voting. Cass said even if the state passed new voting changes, the issue should still be up to a local vote to decide whether Edmonds would adopt ranked choice.

Edmonds City Council President Vivian Olson told the group that if Olympia passes the measure, she expected “it would go to the people to decide if they want to do it.” She added that what we could face is how “we solve problems and put policy in place to serve all the people.” The council discussed ranked choice last December but has taken no further action. Ayrault said that the cities of Bellingham, Snohomish, Vancouver, Wash. and Spokane have expressed support for the legislation.

Ayrault also cited what she called additional benefits to ranked choice – involving more ‘voices,’ more diversity, more equitable representation, more “positive” issues-focused campaigning, and potential cost savings if communities no longer have to hold primary elections. Ayrault insisted the change does not favor one party over another; that reliably Republican Utah uses ranked choice, that the Virginia GOP used it last election to choose their candidate for governor and that heavily Democratic San Francisco votes that way too.

But, when asked if she thought that in the current climate of political divisiveness, either of these bills would pass the state Legislature, Ayrault was candid: “I have zero confidence that any legislation of significance is going to pass” this year, she said. The bills are in committee; the deadline to get them out for a floor vote is just three weeks away. While ranked-choice voting is up for discussion; it may not yet be ready for action.

— By Bob Throndsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Replies to “Merits of ranked-choice voting explored during Edmonds presentation”

  1. FIrst who did attend. It states I believe only “one side” Preston suggested that there are people “who are very staunchly against this” and he took issue with the Edmonds Civic Roundtable (ECR), arguing that the group was “not being fair by not having both sides present.”
    So which side?? Also is this zoom available for the citizens to see since it was obviously not much of a bi-partisan discussion?
    Well aware it is only state law and we don’t have to do it here. However things have a way of slipping by don’t they. SO I do no by any means want Rank Choice Voting…NO way.
    And a lobbyist is a lobbyist…regardless of whether they try and make that hat invisible for a day.

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  2. Anything that heavily Democratic San Francisco does, I’m against just on principle. I’m just not clear this is fixing anything that is broken. It seems like the local problem here is more the council person should be representing a district instead of the whole. as a way of focusing on specific neighborhood issues.

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  3. RCV could eliminate Primary elections here and there to save a little money but hardcore political party activists are never going to go for it. For them the Base is everything and base voters are marginalized by RCV. You cannot win elections without a strong Base. Centrists and swing voters tend to like RCV and will lobby for it.

    Mr. Dreschler is correct. Elected officials who theorhetically represent everyone about everything are free to represent or not whatever or whomever they please which is kind of where we are at now in terms of how our town runs.

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  4. Would you buy a car if there were only two options? Would you buy a house if there were only two floor plans? The only reason to support our incredibly stupid “two party” system is if you have something to gain by this moronic monopoly. RCV gives third parties a glimmer of hope that they could gain some kind of influence and force the two parties we are currently “blessed” with to cooperate and maybe pass some legislation, which of you haven’t forgotten is the main job of a legislator. Also for readers who think Maine and Alaska are heavily Democratic please do the bare minimum of research. This would help everyone, because it encourages both competition and cooperation. Monopolies don’t usually work to help people who don’t control the monopoly.

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  5. I was present at the presentation, and will admit that at this point I am against RCV. I , don’t like the idea that a person who gets the majority of the votes, if that person doesn’t get over 50% of the vote, is not the winner of an election. Under the RCV method, that person may or may not eventually win.
    The Edmonds Civic Roundtable presentation did a good job of explaining RCV, but failed in it’s stated goal of presenting it’s Pros and Cons. Mr Preston was correct, only the Pro’s were presented. The Keynote Speaker was Lisa Ayrault, Chair of FairVote Washington an organization which strongly supports RCV.
    Of the Pros, I do believe that RCV could save money for the governments running the elections, but the rest of the supposed benefits were backed by “examples”, not data.
    The Edmonds Civic Roundtable should now give voice to the “Cons”.

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  6. Voting does not have to be complicated. It simply has to be verifiable as to who is voting, and who is counting the votes.

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  7. Mr. Barnes, your analogies don’t apply. Also, RCV doesn’t favor the Dems. It favors the party with more voters in a given area.

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    1. I said it didn’t favor democrats. It has passed in Alaska and Maine, one of which is definitely Red, the other of which has an independent as a senator. No analogy is perfect, but a ” Two Party System” with FPP voting is ludicrous and in no way encourages competition. Personally I think legislators should be writing and voting on legislation and should be feeling the heat from voters not lobbyists. But I’m just a fellow out here restoring historical buildings, not some egghead. Could be wrong, but generally I have not found monopolies to benefit the general public. That goes for politics as well.

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  8. Way to go Lisa for bringing up something new that works better even though the “climate” isn’t great for passing it. We need to learn new things because change is inevitable, and doing things the “old way” isn’t always relevant to a new time. The meeting wasn’t about a vote, rather information, right? Those with the loudest voice aren’t the ones who make decisions in a democracy; we all decide. I’ve been investigating the pros and cons of ranked voting. If my first choice doesn’t win, I have a voice for a second choice.

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  9. Let’s review. RCV is popular in NYC, Minneapolis and San Francisco–all big cities run by liberal Democrats. Its purpose is ” additional benefits to ranked choice – involving more ‘voices,’ more diversity, more equitable representation….”. How is this so? The real result will be the election of people who may never have gotten a majority vote. This is an effort to try and increase the chances of fringe candidates getting into office.

    What if you support one candidate and think none of the other candidates running in a primary are qualified for office. Do you have to give them your partial vote by ranked choice? Do you then help elect someone you think is not qualified?

    This is a solution to nothing that needs fixing and is, in my opinion, merely another power grabbing attempt by fringe progressives wanting to tilt the playing field.

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  10. Approximately 30% of current American citizens favor an elected for life Oligarch system to replace our current Democracy at the national level. In many cases these folks don’t even realize what they are favoring because they still believe in Santa Claus and special saviors who are looking out for their interests by Making America Great Again. (Sort of like how Putin is trying to make Russia Great Again and how Hitler made Germany Great Again, for awhile – luckily we had Ike on our side).

    Ranked Choice Voting is pretty low on the list of the things we need to be worried about right now. There are people on the not so small fringes in America who are actually advocating for another civil war here. Like the last one was really cool and solved all our problems as a nation. We’ve been fighting a cold civil war since the hot one ended in 1865. We are at a crossroads as a nation right now, but most people don’t even realize it for what it is. Liz Cheney and Joe Biden realize it for what it is and their mutual reward is pure hatred by millions of people. God Bless them, we need them both to prevail in their efforts, or we cease to be a free people as we have known it. When the Oligarch(s) takeover the first thing to go will be freedom of the press, like MEN.

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  11. I am an Edmonds resident, not a lobbyist, and was the co-presenter at the ECR meeting and would like to respond to some of the factually inaccurate statements in these comments. I respect if others don’t support giving local jurisdictions the right to choose how they elect their representatives and/or Ranked Choice Voting – but do want to offer some facts so others can make informed choices.

    Like many others, I am disappointed and disillusioned by the current election system used in the US and the state of politics nationally, statewide, and locally. I see an opportunity for improvement, and RCV offers that opportunity with data to show it delivers positive benefits in those parts of the country that have already adopted it. In my experience, most of the negatives people cite are often not supported with data that withstands analysis.

    To Robert Chaffee: There are far more examples of candidates being elected with 50% of the vote.

    To Brian Drechsler: Asking the question if districting for Edmonds should be a higher priority than RCV is a fair question. I will point out the Republican parties in Utah & Virginia have supported and embraced RCV. In Washington, ballot measures to adopt RCV are on the ballot in Clark and San Jaun counties.

    To Robert Chaffee: Actually, RCV does the opposite of what you claim (favor party with most voters), I’ll offer a link to research citing that 3rd parties and independents fare better under RCV. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3769409

    To Mark Bucklin: RCV promotes more centrist candidates (from both Rs & Ds) and doesn’t favor more extreme candidates. Ideologically extreme candidates are not viewed as more electable in RCV elections than in plurality elections, among both liberals and conservatives. Research to support that: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3837021

    I welcome open, respectful dialog with others perspectives.

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    1. I thank you for your time and your opinion.
      But, this is not Utah, or Virginia. This is WA.
      All this will do is cause more arguing, more money spent and more confusion. None of which we need right now. NO to rank rank choice voting.

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  12. Great comments Mr. Bidstrup. Our party supported elected politicians have a huge vested interest (their cushy with great benefits jobs) in keeping us all at each others throats over what is often just silly ideological nonsense. I don’t support either political party anymore. I do try to think only in terms of good ideas that work well for most of the people and bad ideas that are only good for a special few with great respect for things like private property, individual rights that don’t infringe on others, and freedom of the press.

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  13. Check out thoughts on electionscience.org. It explains tiered and approval voting well, and the big benefit is that more people are happy with the person elected because it was one of their choices. It also points out issues with our present voting systems. Either way, it’s one person one vote.

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