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Editorial: Ranked-choice won’t solve biggest election challenges

Ranked-choice voting may offer an interesting solution to costly run-off elections, but it’s no panacea, and, in the Journal’s estimation, its costs outweigh the benefits.

Albuquerque city councilors are considering a proposal to adopt the vote-tallying method already in use in Santa Fe. Under the ranked-choice, or “instant runoff,” system, voters would rank each candidate by preference. In the event that no candidate takes more than 50% of the first-place vote, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the ballots are recounted, including voters’ first- and second-place choices. The process would continue until a candidate has met the 50% threshold.

As to the six-figure cost of runoffs, sure it would be great for a candidate to take 50% off the bat, but democracy is at least as important as the cost of a runoff election.

Proponents would also say the necessity of competing for not just first place but second and third rids campaigns of some vitriol and puts the focus on the issues. And while a worthy concern, the bigger issue is Albuquerque’s extremely low voter turnout. Less than a third of Albuquerque’s eligible voters put Tim Keller in the Mayor’s Office. So it’s hard to see how asking voters to spend even more time on their ballots will help. And it is challenging enough for busy voters to educate themselves on whom they think is the best person for the job – now they have to bone up on a backup candidate?

Yes, we should insist on issue-focused rhetoric from our candidates and the parties, but trying to legislate positive campaigning is a fool’s errand. Politicians should bear the responsibility of sharing their values with voters and showing they are capable of leading on behalf of all constituents.

Plus, the one voter, one vote is a concept integral to our society’s version of democracy. We shouldn’t have to abandon something so fundamental in order to convince our would-be leaders to act with integrity.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.