Ranked Choice Voting is currently used for state primary, congressional, and presidential elections in Maine, for local elections in more than 20 U.S. cities including Cambridge. Mass. since 1941, locations in Calif., and a few Midwest states and Southwest states. New York has opted for RCV, pending implementation in 2021.
In Benton County, RCV was approved by voters in 2016 through passage of ballot measure 2-100. It was to be used only when a minimum of three candidates are listed on the General Election ballot, for the office of Benton County Commissioner.
This year, the ballot contains two County Commissioner positions where three candidates vied for the seat. An Advocate reporter asked for comments from Benton County citizens about how they liked this new practice.
A total of 17 registered voters responded. Of those, two did not vote in this cycle, one was unhappy with the change and did not comply, four did not name second and third place because they did not realize that the change had occurred, and the remaining ten saw RCV as a well implemented improvement.
Mike Beilstein of Corvallis, the Pacific Green Party candidate for Position 2 Benton County Commissioner said, “One of the biggest benefits of RCV is that it eliminates the ‘spoiler‘ effect of third-party participation in elections. It ensures that the election winner always has majority support, although the winner might be the second choice of some voters. I would like to see RCV become the standard for all Oregon elections, as it is now for all Maine elections.”
As a candidate, Beilstein knew how to use RCV and was aware that Benton County had provided information to voters in diverse ways – a leaflet enclosed with the ballot, information in the voter pamphlet, and local newspaper advertisements. He said that during his campaign he met voters who were unaware of the new procedure.
Jaga and Tomasz Giebułtowicz of Corvallis were familiar with the procedure, both professors at Oregon State University experienced voting for the university-related positions in this way. They both agreed that it was an improvement of the former process.
Rebecca Winters, an attorney from Philomath was in favor of the process and found it easy to use, so did Connie Nguyen and Susan Elbinger. Court Smith of Corvallis also approved, while saying he was testing if ranking only the first two out of three candidates will make a difference in comparison to ranking all three.