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Ranked Choice Voting, by Ruth Kistler and Georgia Roelof

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

The League of Women Voters of Oregon (LWVOR) last studied election methods in 2016. A portion of the position we adopted follows: “The League of Women Voters of Oregon does not believe that plurality voting is the best method for promoting democratic choice in all circumstances. For single-winner systems, the League supports ranked-choice voting. The League supports election methods that are simple and easy for voters to understand.” Georgia’s article in this newsletter provides a simple and easy-to-understand explanation of Ranked Choice Voting. Maine enacted a ranked-choice voting system in 2016. This November Alaska voters approved a ballot measure making Alaska the second state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting in statewide elections. Oregon allows local jurisdictions to use alternative election methods, as ranked choice voting, in local elections. Benton County voters approved ranked-choice voting in 2016, but this (2020) was the first election in which it was used, since three or more candidates for an office are required. Legislation may be introduced in the Oregon 2021 legislative session to make ranked-choice available state-wide. Technical fixes may be required to ensure that Oregon’s voting machines can tabulate ranked-choice ballots accurately.

What is RCV? by Georgia Roelof

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a concept whose time has come (in my opinion). And our neighbor, Benton County, is a fine example for us to follow. I’ll elaborate on that in a minute. RCV is a method by which every voter ranks the candidates in order of preference instead of voting for just one candidate. Their preferred candidate is their first choice, their back up is their second choice, and they could designate a third choice and so on. If one candidate receives more than 50% of first choice votes, that candidate is elected. If no candidate receives more than 50%, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated, and that candidate’s supporters have their second choice votes counted. Votes are counted again and if one candidate receives a majority, that candidate is the winner.

Consider, for example, our County Commissioners’ race, which often attracts more than two candidates. With RCV, the votes would be ranked 1,2,3 (or more if necessary). If, in the first round, no candidate received more than 50%, the 2nd choice votes would be applied for those whose 1st choice was eliminated. This could be repeated until one candidate achieved the majority.

Since November 2016, Benton County has used RCV to elect County Commissioners. They have shown by example how successful this manner of voting is. The County has even set up an entertaining video to show how it works – Check it out! Two important things would happen if RCV was used – 1) Every voter would have more than one chance to affect the outcome of the votes cast, and 2) An expensive run-off election would not be necessary. Isn’t that worth considering for the future of Lincoln County?

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