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Candidates say repeal ranked-choice voting

As candidates for Las Cruces City Council in the Nov. 2 election, we are calling on the mayor and City Council to repeal the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) process used in the 2019 municipal election and return to the time-honored traditional one-person, one-vote system for future elections.

The convoluted RCV process produced a bizarre result in 2019. Even though only about one-third – 37% – of the voters voted for the incumbent mayor as their first choice, he ended up getting another four-year term because of the RCV process.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima was in his 12th year in office during the 2019 election, so his record was very well known to the voters. Yet almost two-thirds – 63% – of the voters voted for someone other than the incumbent mayor as their first choice.

We submitted a statement calling for repeal of RCV to the mayor during the citizen participation segment of the June 7 Zoom virtual City Council meeting. The mayor did not comment on the statement after reading it into the record and moved on to other business. The practice of the mayor reading citizens’ comments for them was started because the Council meets remotely due to COVID.

It took nine RCV iterations of reallocating other candidates’ second-choice votes for the incumbent mayor to accumulate the necessary 51% of the votes to qualify as the winner. At no time did the incumbent have to face his closest challenger in a head-to-head election.

The RCV process ostensibly is intended to save the cost of a runoff election. But a news report said the Doña Ana County Clerk estimated the cost of a runoff election, if necessary, at $100,000. That figure is negligible and nonmaterial compared to the half-billion-dollar city budget and the importance of having credibility for our elections.

In addition, the RCV system is susceptible to scamming and behind-the-scenes dealmaking in which candidates can conspire to have their respective supporters vote for one another as their second choices.

Multiple bogus, nonviable candidates can enter the election just to trigger the RCV process by splitting the vote and preventing any candidate from getting to 51% in the first round.

City Council enacted RCV in 2018. There were 10 candidates for mayor in the November 2019 election, in which five candidates each received less than 5% of the vote.

An exit poll from the 2019 election reportedly showed 53% of the voters would support use of RCV in future elections and 47% opposed it. However, the exit poll was taken before voters learned that the incumbent mayor had won the election. Otherwise they might have answered differently.

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