The Time Has Come
By Jerilyn Bowen
Come election time in Albuquerque next November, how would you like to be able to cast a ballot for your favorite candidate without worrying that your vote won’t matter? Or that it might even serve to help an abhorrent candidate get into office? Imagine being allowed to rank candidates in order of preference so that, should your top preference not land a majority on the initial tally, your second choice will automatically receive the vote you cast rather than getting lost to an either/or dilemma.
This common sense instrument of voter liberation is called Ranked Choice Voting. It’s designed to allow democracy to flourish rather than struggle against unnecessary impediments. RCV has accordingly been adopted to good effect by many locales across the country, including Santa Fe and Las Cruces. It earns its stripes by making the electoral process fairer, less expensive, more efficient, less acrimonious, more participatory, and more user-friendly for both voters and candidates.
We of the Burque persuasion now have a chance to bring RCV to our fair city. A bill to introduce this improvement is under consideration by the Finance Committee of Albuquerque City Council. If approved at their May 13th meeting to go to the full City Council, it could be passed and put into effect in time for next fall’s municipal elections.
Conserves City Funds & Increases Voter Participation
One great advantage of RCV is that it eliminates the high cost of runoff elections. In an Albuquerque mayoral race, that cost comes to almost a million dollars. In a council election, the runoff tab is similar. In all cases, the money saved can be far better used in programs and public works that benefit the citizens of our city — everything from schools, housing, transportation, and community safety to water conservation, flood control, pollution abatement, and infrastructure upkeep.
Under RCV, both publicly and privately financed candidates benefit as well — first, from not having to rustle up the funding required by costly runoff elections, and second, by escaping the wear and tear of another round of campaigning. Since runoff turnouts are notoriously low, the RCV instant runoff also ensures that more voters have a voice in the final outcome.
When people feel they can vote their conscience and their votes actually count no matter what, more of them show up at the polls. In its first RCV election last year, Santa Fe saw a 10 percent increase in turnout over the 2014 mayoral election there. Were Albuquerque to stick with its present old-style runoff system in next fall’s election, given that the runoff would be held in the midst of the December holiday season, the usual low turnout for runoffs would likely recur with a vengeance.
Encourages Issue-Oriented, Clean Campaigns
Ranked Choice Voting offers many advantages beyond the immediately obvious ones. By way of background: when no one candidate gets 50 percent or more of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and the second choice of those voters is counted. If there’s still no candidate with a majority, the process continues by eliminating the remaining candidate with the least popular support and counting the next choice on those ballots, and so it goes until one candidate attains a majority vote. In practice this means that some elections will be decided taking into account second- and even third-choice votes. That being the case, Candidate X has good reason to consider the cost of trashing an opponent who will likely be the favored candidate of some voters, voters who by-the-by may be inclined to put Candidate X down as their second or third choice. This game changer mitigates against the dirty campaign tactics that typically mire our elections, instead encouraging an upstanding focus on issues, policies, and overall vision of the common good. Wonder of wonders, our elections could become about what matters most to us rather than about who did the best job of confusing the electorate with spin, stirring up fear, creating distrust, and inflaming antagonisms.
Voter Liberation within Our Reach
If that sounds like an attractive option to you, you are not alone. And what high-quality candidate would not find it a relief to be freed from dealing with personal attacks, not to mention being freed from feeling they must return such attacks in kind? RCV gives everyone the opportunity to evolve into a more enlightened state of political being.
Along with that, Ranked Choice Voting is a critically needed antidote to the pervasive malaise that now threatens our democracy at every level. Change always arises from the grassroots and, for Albuquerque residents, this city is our high desert field of dreams. Let us dream a better way to elect our leaders and make that a reality, right here, right now.
- Before May 13th, call or email Albuquerque City Councilors on the Finance Committee. Urge them to vote for Ranked Choice Voting to come before the full City Council.
- Call or email other City Councilors, starting with your own. Make the case for RCV and ask them to adopt it.
City Council Finance Committee
> Don Harris, Chair firstname.lastname@example.org; Bonnie Sutter, policy analyst 505/768-3123.
> Seems to want to tank this bill. As he is chair of the Finance Committee, however, it’s important that he hear from Albuquerque residents about how much money the city could save by not having to hold separate runoff elections.
> Ken Sanchez email@example.com; Elaine Romero, policy analyst 505/768-3183.
> Not likely to vote for RCV in full Council but may be willing to vote in favor of passing the bill out of the Finance Committee to be considered by City Council as a whole. His vote on May 13th could make all the difference. Please call and ask that he vote the bill out of committee at the Finance Committee meeting so that it can get a hearing in City Council.
> Klarissa Peña firstname.lastname@example.org; Cherise Quezada, policy analyst 505/768-3127.
> Appears to oppose RCV. Even though she’s not likely to come around, it’s important that she get a lot of calls.
> Patrick Davis email@example.com; co-sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
> Diane Gibson firstname.lastname@example.org; supports RCV, just email to thank her.
Other Council Members
> Ike Benton email@example.com; main sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
> Brad Winter firstname.lastname@example.org; co-sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
> Cynthia Borrego email@example.com; Susan Vigil, policy analyst 505/768-3189. Seems quite open to RCV. Key person to call.
> Trudy Jones firstname.lastname@example.org; Aziza Chavez, policy analyst 505/768-3106.
> Needs to hear from RCV advocates.