Ranked Choice Voting: Yes or No?

rank-choice-picBenton county’s ballot measure to implement ranked-choice voting for county officials has broad local support.Here’s our take on ballot Measure 2-100.

What is it: Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, rather than voting for just one. Candidates must win by majority. If no majority is achieved after the first tally, voters who preferred the lowest-ranked candidate will have their second-choice candidate counted instead.

Advocates say: Local proponents tout ranked-choice voting as a more democratic, fair, and civil process, and they have data to back up their claims. In addition, studies of ranked-choice voting have found that voters prefer it. And while Benton County has not had tight elections in recent years, advocates say that we should be a model for other Oregon counties and make the change before we encounter problems.

Opponents say: Opposition to this measure in Benton county has been so quiet as to be nonexistent, but concerns about ranked-choice voting do exist. At a recent City Club of Corvallis forum on the measure, many audience questions centered on implementation.Voter confusion is also a concern, as is making sure there is funding for adequate educational efforts. Finally, the system is vulnerable to manipulation by “bullet voting,” where voters are influenced to select only one candidate despite the option to choose more, or “vanity candidates,” who run for office with no intention of actually governing—though proponents say these unintended consequences are a result less of the voting system than the influence of money in politics.

Conclusion: Vote yes on ranked-choice voting—no voting system is perfect, and this one seems less flawed than most. But stay on your elected officials about their plans for implementation and voter education. The measure has been designed so it can only be implemented with at least $200,000 in funding from the state or other non-county coffers, and there will be at least a 12-month cushion from the time of funding before the new system is used. Officials should use that time to do test-runs with the voting machines and get the word out to voters about changes.

By Maggie Anderson