Ranked-choice voting measure stalls in Senate

A proposal that could allow for ranked-choice voting in New Mexico state and local elections stalled Monday in a Senate committee on a tie vote and appears dead for this year’s 60-day legislative session. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — A proposal that could have opened the door to ranked-choice voting in New Mexico election was derailed Monday in a Senate committee.

But backers of the measure vowed to bring back the idea, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference in what’s also described as an “instant run-off.”

“We look forward to a further discussion about this next year,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, after a tie 5-5 vote in the Senate Rules Committee left the measure effectively stalled.

In its revised form, Senate Joint Resolution 22, would have authorized — but not mandated — the Legislature to permit the use of alternate voting methods like ranked-choice voting.

It would have also required approval from state voters, likely in November 2022, in order to take effect.

At least two states — Alaska and Maine — have already enacted ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, while Santa Fe and Las Cruces have adopted the voting method for their city elections.

Two Democratic senators, Bill O’Neill and Linda Lopez,  both of Albuquerque, joined with three Republicans to vote against advancing the proposal during Monday’s hearing.

Backers of ranked-choice voting say it ensures that winning candidates, especially in crowded primary elections, don’t triumph with just a plurality of votes, but instead with at least 50% of support from voters.

It works by eliminating the lowest vote-getting candidate in a race, if no candidate has hit the 50% mark, and reallocating votes for that candidate to a voter’s second-choice candidate.

That process then continues until a candidate reaches the 50% threshold.

If enacted, ranked-choice voting could decrease election costs because it would remove the need, in Albuquerque and other cities, to conduct a second run-off election in races where no candidate received a majority of the votes cast.

However, there could be upfront administrative costs incurred by the Secretary of State’s office and municipalities in implementing the new voting procedure, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office said the state’s current voting systems do allow for ranked-choice voting, according to the analysis.

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