Ranking Our Vote

Nick Welsh’s interesting commentary on how Santa Barbara selects its mayor points out the frailty of our current process. Certainly we should not relish the selection of any candidate that gets a substantially smaller than majority of the votes cast. But that doesn’t mean we need a run-off or some form of restriction on the number of candidates offered.

The problem has been addressed in other communities, most notably in San Francisco, our neighbor to the north. They adopted ranked choice voting in 2002 to avoid this exact dilemma. In fact, ranked choice voiting has been used for over a century in municipalities around the U.S., including New York and Sacramento. Ranked choice voting simply offers the voter the choice of listing candidates in order of her or his choice. The voter can also just vote for his or her favorite.

Few critics deny that ranked choice votingis an economic and effective procedure. It has also been proven to increase voter turnout. The only regular objection to it is that it may be “too confusing” to the voters. This despite its effective implementation elsewhere, such as in Australia for the past 100 years. Such a patronizing attitude cannot be the basis of restricting democracy. I think most people can understand how to rank their choices in a simple ballot, so let’s move on this.

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