Sunday, March 14, 2021

RCV 2021 Update

After New York City's Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) in Special Elections for Empty Seats on the City Council, New York City Residents will use RCV for the First Time June Citywide Primary. They will be able to choose their First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Favorites.

In 2019, New York city Voters Changed the way they cast a Ballot in Municipal Elections, Voters in America’s most Populous City will Participate in the Largest Test of the RCV in the Nation. RCV is unfamiliar to most of the City’s 5,586,118 Registered Voters, so Local Election Officials are racing to Educate them.

New York City will Train nearly 500 People from Community Organizations and more than 2,600 Voters to help Spread the Message throughout the City’s Five Boroughs and Hundreds of Neighborhoods. The City will Mail Postcards and Voting Guides, Launch an Advertising Campaign, and Blitz Local Media.

The Method has been used in State Elections in Maine and in 20 Counties and Towns around the Country. “Sometimes we hear from elected officials, ‘Well, it worked in all these other places. But this is New York City. We’re bigger, we’re more complicated and more diverse,’” said Eric Friedman, Assistant Executive Director for Public Affairs at the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), which is Leading the City’s Public Education Campaign. “We may need to do some extra work to figure out how to make this stick here.”

Lawmakers in 29 States are considering Measures this year that would adopt RCV in some form in: Local, Statewide, or Presidential Primary Elections. Many of those Bills have Bipartisan Support. Depending on the State and which Party is in Power, some Bills are Sponsored by just Republicans or just Democrats.

This momentum follows a year in which Alaska and Six Cities throughout the Country decided to adopt the RCV method in upcoming Elections, while several other Municipalities used RCV for the First Time. Along with Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas Nevada, and Wyoming, also used theMmethod for Voting in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries.

While Proponents laud the Voting method for Eliminating costly Runoff Elections and say it helps promote Civility in Campaigning, some Election Officials worry the Process may Turn-Off Voters who view it as too Complex. Even so, All agree that a Robust Public Education effort and Clear State Standards are crucial to bolster Voter Confidence in RCV.

The Voting process is especially Useful in Crowded Races where the Winning Candidate often Fails to get more than 50% of the Firts Vote. In a time when many People feel Politics has become too Toxic, the Ability to Elect a Candidate who Wins a Plurality of First-Choice Votes, but is at least Palatable to a Majority of those who cast Ballots, is promising, said Deb Otis, a Senior Research Analyst for FairVote, a Nonprofit that Advocates for RCV. “Our extreme polarization is holding people back on both sides,” she said. “This momentum exists because we’re all seeing the same things: Our democracy is broken and it’s getting worse.”

This will be especially important for the City’s Latinos, who are 30% of the Population, said Juan Rosa, Northeast Director of Civic Engagement for the NALEO Educational Fund, a Nonpartisan Group that seeks to boost Latino Participation in the Democratic Process. NALEO will work with more than 100 Community Organizations in the City to offer Presentations and Trainings on RCV between now and the June Primary. Rosa said the Group will Build-Off the Network it Created for the 2020 Census, when it learned that Latino Voters trust Educators, Health Care Workers and Spanish-Language Media as Communicators of Complex Information.

But In-Person outreach continues to be a challenge in the Pandemic. “It’s an uphill battle,” he said. “Our community builds trust by being able to see you, hear you, ask you questions. That becomes less possible when you’re communicating over a Zoom call.”

Some efforts to adopt RCV have already Succeeded in 2021:

Colorado: Has allowed Cities to offer RCV. State Rep. Jeni James Arndt (D, 53rd District), Co-Sponsored Legislation in 2021 that would set State Standards for RCV and Allow Cities to Run their RCV Elections through their Counties, instead of Independently. “It’s a pretty mild bill, but it elevates the issue. If a city did opt in, it would make it easier to do it. This is a proof-of-concept type of bill. And then it doesn’t seem so scary.” she said. The Bill Passed out of a House Committee without Any Republican Support. But it is still expected to pass the Legislature.

Assistant Minority Leader Tim Geitner (R-19th District), who Opposes the Bill, said Colorado towns have Run RCV Elections without State Assistance in the Past. That is true, said Tiffany Kavanaugh, Town Clerk of Telluride, One of Two Municipalities in Colorado that have Run RCV Elections. But, she said, she would have Benefited from State Guidance and Tabulating help from her County.

Because the Town had a RCV Election that the rest of the County and State lacked, Telluride Voters received Two Ballots in One Envelope. Once Completed and Returned to Election Officials, One Ballot went to the County to Tabulate and the Other went to the City to Tabulate by Hand.

But Telluride has only 2,400 Registered Voters. Kavanaugh can’t Imagine how Difficult that would be in a Larger city without the Help of the County or State. “It was not intuitive for me at the beginning,” she said. “It took many training sessions before we hand-counted. It was almost like we were training for a marathon.”

She remains Neutral on RCV. While she is Not sure Voters ever Fully Grasped how it worked, the System was Effective in 2015, when the Top Two Mayoral Candidates Tied. In Previous years, this would have been Settled through a Card Draw. The Citizen Initiative that brought RCV to Telluride Expired in 2019 after Three Elections.

UTAH: Last week, Legislators voted to Expand the State’s RCV Pilot Program, giving Cities more Opportunities. Utah in 2018 launched the Pilot Program allowing Cities to Test RCV in their Local Elections.

But 28 of the State’s 29 County Clerks did Not feel Comfortable offering this Option. Ricky Hatch, the Clerk in Weber County and Board Chair of the Utah Association of Counties, a Nonprofit that Supports County Governments, said One of the biggest Concerns for Clerks was how to Explain the System to a Voter or Losing Candidate in a Detailed enough Manner to inspire Confidence in the Security, Transparency, and Auditability of Elections. “Ranked-choice voting is very good on paper,” Hatch said. “It’s a good theory that gives voters more options. But there’s a real challenge when it comes to real practice. Anytime anybody asks me to describe ranked-choice voting, they usually ask me two additional times to explain myself.”

Vermont: Earlier this month, Voters in Burlington, Vermont, Approved a Ballot Initiative to Amend the Capital City’s Charter to allow RCV in Local Elections. “Over the past few years, we’ve just seen more outcomes that are gerrymandered or that are so rooted in the two-party system,” said City Councilor, Zoraya Hightower, one of Burlington’s Leading Proponents of the Method and a Member of the Vermont Progressive Party. The State Legislature and Governor must now Sign-Off on the City Charter Change. “There is a public awareness of how our voting system isn’t necessarily fair or gets outcomes that the voting public actually wants.”

Wisconsin: A Group of Republican and Democratic Lawmakers introduced a Bill this year that would Eliminate Partisan Primaries for Federal Offices in favor of a Primary Ballot with All Candidates, regardless of Party. Voters would First they choose their Favorite Candidate, then, in a System known as Final-Five Voting, upto Four more Candidates. The Top Five Candidates. Approval Voting, would Advance to the General Election. In the General Election, Voters would then use RCV to Rank those Top Five Candidates.

The hope behind the Proposal is that it will help ease Political Tensions and inspire more Common-Sense Governing in Congress, said Sara Eskrich, Executive Director of Democracy Found, a Bipartisan Nonprofit that Advocates for the Alternative Voting Method. “It allows elected officials to be responsible to their constituents,” Eskrich said, “not always looking over their shoulder for a primary challenge.”

State Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-7th District), One of the Wisconsin Bill’s Sponsors, said that his Colleagues in Both Parties know all too well how a Small Percentage of Primary Voters can Stand in the way of getting things Done. While he is Encouraged to see Bipartisan Agreement, he also knows that this is a Big Change that ultimately would Scrap the way they Originally got Elected. “Any way that gets us to think about changing the game of how we know how to win,” he said, “is a challenge.”

CLICK HERE to see what your State is doing with RCV.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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