Only four cities in Colorado use the ranked choice vote. Democratic lawmakers want to make it easier for others to adopt it.

It’s a relatively rare way to vote in the United States, but a group of Democratic state lawmakers want to make it easier to use the ranked choice vote to elect leaders in Colorado cities.

Here’s how it works: Instead of casting a vote for one candidate, voters rank the candidates according to their preferences. Votes are counted based on the first choice of each voter, and if the candidate gets a majority, he wins on the spot.

But if no candidate obtains a majority, the contestants who received the fewest votes in rounds will be disqualified, with their votes reallocated to the next highest-ranked candidate on the electorate’s ballot. This continues until one candidate obtains a majority.

Watch: How does the ranking vote work?

Proponents of the ranked vote, also known as the immediate run-off vote, say the method gives voters a greater say, eliminates the need for expensive run-offs and ensures the winner gets a majority of the vote, demonstrating their broad support.

Representative Chris Kennedy, a Democrat, said, “In my Lakewood suburb, it is very easy to get a city council ballot … so it’s very common to have three or four or more candidates running.” “And in these scenarios, it is very common for a person who wins 30 or 40% of the vote, but rarely gets a majority.”

Colorado municipalities can already implement ordered selection voting, and so far four municipalities have adopted the new method. Residents of Boulder will Elect their major with a classification system Starting in 2023, the mountain towns of Telluride and Basalt are currently using the method in some municipal elections. Carbondale adopted the classified vote in 2002, but has yet to implement it in the election.

In Colorado, however, few cities use this method, so it can be expensive and difficult to implement.

Emma Donahue, the political director of the Ranking Selection Voting Organization for Colorado, testified before the House Finance Committee on Thursday, “Most cities do not have their own voting machines – they are holding coordinated elections with their county.” “Manual counting is fine in Basalt or Telluride, but I don’t think Boulder wants to do that, nor does anyone else.”

Currently, counties with cities conducting the Array Choice vote will have to conduct two different types of election audits, because Colorado’s new vetting system to reduce risk is inconsistent with the alternative voting method.

This is the place House of Representatives 1071 Eat in. The legislation would make it easier for cities to adopt the method by requiring the Colorado Secretary of State to set minimum standards and requirements for a new voting system that would allow for vote-by-choice, such as certifying software that municipalities can use.

Under the proposal, the Secretary of State’s office would bear some of the largest costs – developing and updating programs for counting votes and conducting election audits – which would make it possible for cities, particularly those located in more than one county, such as Erie and Aurora, to conduct elections using the ranked vote on The same ballot as the other races.

Part of the reason there are so few [cities using ranked choice voting] Kennedy, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said it was too expensive to do so under current law.

Pros and Cons

Although American cities have used the ranked vote at various points over the past century, they have begun to gain momentum again in the past two decades, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.

Currently, 20 US cities and towns use the voting method in local elections. According to FairVote, Including Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, and Oakland and San Francisco in California, with several other cities slated to be implemented in the next few years. In 2020, Maine became the first state to use ranked-for-election for the general presidential election.

Broomfield City Council is Currently discussing Whether or not to adopt the voting method, while in Denver, the City Charter Committee is considering voting by ranked selection alongside other electoral reforms.

Meanwhile, Aspen voters agreed to vote first in 2007, but then voted To cancel the order In November 2010 Because of the frustration of the logistics From its implementation.

House of Representatives 1071 It applies only to municipalities and non-party races, and the implementation of voting by ranked selection will still be optional.

State Rep. Jenny Arendt, a Democrat at Fort Collins and another major sponsor of the bill, says the alternative voting method dampens polarization and removes the influence of the “spoiler” candidate that draws votes away from the main party candidates.

“If you’re campaigning in a nonpartisan race, and talking to a potential voter, they may not vote for you, but they might vote for you as their second choice,” said Arendt, who is running for a senior. Fort Collins. “Places that have done it … the candidates say they give you more civilized sweat, because you reach for everyone and listen almost twice.”

Advocates also cite the research, based on its four cities it has The vote was adopted by ranked selection in the Gulf of California area, Which shows that more women and people of color have run for the position and are more likely to win under the voting method.

“So there is evidence that this has shown that it is more inclusive, more equal, and really gives voters better satisfaction in their voting system,” said Donahue, of Voting in Rating Selection for Colorado.

The legislation was supported by a number of groups, including the Colorado Women Electors Association, Colorado Municipal Association, and the Municipal Clerks Association.

Rep. Colin Larson, a Republican from Littleton, said he was intrigued by the ranking vote and believed Colorado would benefit from the election reforms. But he is concerned that a major turnaround in the elections would confuse voters and have a negative impact on participation.

“The truth is that there are a lot of voters who are not very sophisticated when it comes to understanding elections,” he said. “Arranged selection voting, just because it’s something new that people don’t participate in at first, I feel anxious, at least in the beginning with implementation, it can be very confusing.”

The 64 counties that make up the Colorado County Writers Association have also expressed concerns about how the shift will affect voter turnout, according to CEO Matt Crane, who is also a writer and former registrar in Arapahoe County.

The scribes expressed skepticism that, with limited data on relatively few jurisdictions that have adopted nationwide ranked choice voting, many of the purported benefits will not materialize.

“It doesn’t always result in a 50% plus one winner,” Crane said. “And there is some data … that has had a negative impact on the participation of people of color and the elderly. We are studying that and we want to make sure that the change of election policy, will be a fruitful change.”

Association membership has taken a “amendment” position on the legislation, which means the group would like to see changes.

Kennedy said many of these issues could be addressed through a vigorous voter education campaign, which the bill requires but leaves up to municipalities and counties to conduct and fund.

Kennedy said, “I think one of the things that has been learned … is if you had a good voter education campaign, or a multilingual campaign, and if the ballot design was correct, you wouldn’t see a drop in turnout.”

Funding challenges

Municipalities will be responsible for some of the costs of implementing the arranged choice vote, including election preparation, ballot design, voter education, and vote counting. Counties that use Tiered Choice voting will also split the cost of the cost each year for licensing the state’s voting system.

The Secretary of State’s office took a neutral stance on the legislation but had concerns about the costs.

The bill would cost the agency nearly $ 1 million over three years, largely due to the software and technology upgrades needed to hold voting elections to pick rank in cities that cross county boundaries, according to financial analysis By a non-partisan legislature. (Aurora, for example, is found in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties.)

62 of Colorado’s 64 counties use Dominion’s Democracy Suite, which already has the ability to add a ranked choice vote to their programs, meaning the Secretary of State can upgrade this program and reach most Colorado cities. Kennedy said the remaining two counties, Douglas and Garfield, were using another system and would not be required to participate under that act.

Amendments to the bill have already been made based on concerns raised by the Secretary of State, including delaying the date by which municipalities in several provinces could adopt the voting method to 2025. This is to give election officials more time to upgrade their vetting program.

“I’ve spoken to the experts who say it’s possible, it just takes time,” Kennedy said.

The expenditures will be funded entirely through the agency’s cash fund, which will require increased fees on businesses and charities in Colorado, according to John Magnino, director of government and public affairs for the Secretary of State.

“Without an alternative funding source, the cost of this bill will force us to increase fees on Colorado companies to ensure that our cash fund expenses are balanced with our cash fund revenues,” Magnino said in remarks to the House Finance Committee.

“While this extension in implementation allows us to spread the cost over other years, it still represents a significant expense requiring us to increase fees in order to generate additional revenue,” Magnino said. “We would be in a better position to fully support this law if a different source of funding was identified.”

If the Secretary of State were to increase the fee to pay the bill, the Colorado companies would see a one-time increase of $ 1.25, according to Kennedy’s private calculations. “It’s very much manageable,” he said.

It will also depend on whether the legislature approves any other bills this year that would affect this fund, which will not be clear until later this year.

So far, the bill has no bipartisan support, according to Kennedy. “I really don’t think this benefits one side more than the other. I think it makes sure whoever the majority of voters believe in will win the race.”

Larson was one of four Republicans to vote against rolling out the bill from the House Finance Committee, citing the potential cost to the companies.

“Although it is a rather symbolic sum, I don’t think the time has come to prioritize implementing a new electoral system,” said Larson. “I certainly don’t think 2021 is the year in which corporate fees are raised.”

Legislation is now headed by the House Appropriations Committee.


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