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ABQ runoff shows need for ranked-choice voting

Well, it’s only – taxpayers’ – money.

As the Albuquerque voters in City Council Districts 2 and 4 know, there was not a candidate elected as the winner must have 50% of the vote. Thus, there will be a runoff election on Dec. 10.

Runoff elections cost money for government workers at taxpayers’ expense to prepare ballots, rent voting spaces, hire and train the staff to be at these voting centers and then tabulate the ballots.

But recently the city of Santa Fe elected a mayor from five candidates and used ranked-choice voting (RCV) to determine the winner without having a runoff election. And in November the city of Las Cruces elected its mayor from 10 candidates by holding a ranked-choice election. …

Well, what will the Albuquerque runoff election cost? Under the current law, the county will manage the election, but the city pays, so I asked the county clerk – how much?

Here is the answer:

“Our current projections for the cost of the runoff election is approximately $1.4 million. This projection is a munificent estimation that entails all costs associated with the election. We will attempt to be as efficient as possible and our office is optimistic that the actuals of the election will display that notion,” according to an email from the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office.

But that is not all of the cost of the runoff election as candidates can elect to receive public funding, so add in another $50,000 plus/minus.

So if Santa Fe and Las Cruces avoided runoff elections by using ranked-choice voting, why didn’t Albuquerque do the same thing?

Well, not for lack of trying as City Councilors (Isaac) Benton, (Brad) Winter and (Pat) Davis proposed an ordinance to accomplish that. However, five councilors must vote in favor and only four did.

Reasons given include it would be changing the rules in the middle of the election and the old standby, let’s ask the voters to approve, but the City Council will write the rules. The three city councilors above are from both major parties, although this election is, nominally, nonpartisan.

In other words, wasting people’s time and taxpayers’ money was the result of dealing with arguments that voters would not understand.

Ranked-choice voting has been used in Minneapolis and other cities, and the state of Maine has adopted it for state elections. Australia has used RCV for over 100 years.

In Albuquerque, Common Cause New Mexico led the issue and had support from Indivisible Nob Hill. Both of these organizations are national in scope and work for better and more accountable government.

I hope the issue of bringing ranked choice voting to city of Albuquerque elections in the future interests you enough for you to call, email or write your city councilor to ask why this runoff election had to be held and that wasting time and money was a bad decision.

Richmond is a member of League of Women Voters Central New Mexico, Common Cause NM and Indivisible Nob Hill. The views are those of the author and may not reflect the policies of the organizations….

 

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