The Albuquerque City Council Finance Committee will be reviewing a proposed ranked-choice voting ordinance Monday. It should pass this bill.
RCV is the great equalizer. It can ensure that all candidates seeking city office connect with Albuquerque voters beyond their traditional bases in order to win, thus paving the way for representatives to be better at listening – and addressing – the needs of all constituents. RCV also ensures that the winning candidate has garnered support across the community and eliminates the possibility of being elected in spite of opposition from a large portion of voters.
Lastly, RCV eliminates the need for multiple-round elections. This benefits voters in two ways: one, the cost of political participation is reduced by only having to go to the polling station once per election and, two, incumbent representatives spend less time campaigning and fundraising and more time serving the people.
RCV allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing just one. It promotes candidates who are able to obtain broader support vs. through plurality elections – the current system – since the winning candidate typically has strong first-choice support and also receives a high number of second- and third-place votes. RCV also gives voters more choice, rather than limiting them to only supporting one candidate.
How are ranked-choice ballots counted? It’s simple: To win a ranked-choice election, a candidate must receive at least a majority of total votes counted. A majority is 50% of the total, plus one vote.
So, after all the votes are in on Election Day, counters will tally first-choice votes. If one candidate gets 50% plus one, they win. If no candidate wins a majority based on first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the second choices on that candidate’s ballots are awarded those votes. Votes are re-calculated, and if one candidate gets a majority, they are declared the winner. If not, the process is repeated with the candidate in last place eliminated, and the second choice on the ballots awarded those votes. If the second choice on those ballots has already been eliminated, the third choice is counted, and so on. The process is repeated until one candidate reaches a majority and is declared the winner. The Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office has said that it is fully prepared to support an RCV system.
Most importantly, ranked-choice voting can help overcome hyper-partisanship; if voters know that they have the option to support more than one candidate, there will be less pressure to adhere to political tribes for fear of “vote splitting.” This means that voters can vote in line with their actual preferences, even if that preference doesn’t belong to one of the two parties or doesn’t have their party’s nomination.
Santa Fe has successfully implemented RCV, as have many other cities in the U.S. such as Minneapolis, Minnesota; Berkeley, California; San Francisco, California; and Portland, Maine. Let’s include Albuquerque into this growing list of innovative cities by switching to a voting system that encourages competition and gives voters a greater say in choosing their representatives.