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New petition filed to force ranked-choice voting in Santa fe

SANTA FE — Efforts to implement ranked choice voting in time for the 2018 municipal election in Santa Fe were renewed Friday when an emergency petition was filed in state District Court.

Last week, the state Supreme Court rejected a similar petition.

Since that decision, however, the software needed to implement the ranked choice voting method has been certified.

“On September 27, 2017, New Mexico’s Voting System Certification Committee unanimously recommended it for certification, and as mandated by the State’s election code for voting systems, it has now been certified and will be used throughout the State in the upcoming 2018 elections,” according to the petition filed by Maria Perez of FairVote New Mexico — a nonpartisan group that advocates for electoral reforms at the local, state, and national level — and others.

Ranked choice voting, also called “instant runoff,” would apply in city elections where there were more than two candidates. Voters rank their choice in order of preference. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the first-ranked votes in the initial count, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the process is repeated until a winner is determined.

City councilors considered implementing ranked-choice voting for the March 6, 2018, election, but a majority of the council decided to delay it until 2020 because the software had yet to receive certification and because of concerns there was not enough time to educate voters about the change.

Santa Fe voters in 2008 overwhelmingly approved changes to the city’s charter that ranked-choice voting be implemented for city elections, but not until the vote-counting software was available and affordable. A company has offered the software now for about $40,000.

The petition asks a judge to issue a writ to compel the city to comply with the will of the voters and implement ranked-choice voting for the March 6 election, “or show cause why it should not.”

The city clerk, city attorney and city’s public information officer did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the new filing on Friday.

Last week, after the Supreme Court ruling, City Clerk Yolanda Vigil said in a statement, “As always, our focus is on administering another successful election process this March, and we look forward to implementing Ranked Choice Voting following this election cycle (in 2020).”

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