| Elizabeth Cook ∙ The Michigan Daily |
This November, voters in Ann Arbor have the opportunity to reform our local electoral system through the implementation of ranked-choice voting.
A proposed City Charter Amendment on the ballot this November would establish a ranked-choice voting system for City Council and mayoral elections in Ann Arbor, should state law authorize ranked-choice voting.
Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system that allows voters to rank multiple preferred candidates, instead of voting for only one. When the votes are tabulated in this way, the candidate with the fewest first-round votes is eliminated and votes received by that candidate are reallocated to their voters’ second choice candidates. The process continues with more eliminations and reallocations until one candidate has a majority of the votes and is declared the winner.
”Under ranked-choice voting, Ann Arbor elected its first Black mayor, Albert Wheeler.
This system garnered national attention this past summer when New York City used ranked-choice voting in their municipal elections , including the mayoral primary. Ranked-choice voting is used in many other places, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, as well as in the state of Maine for federal elections.
Ann Arbor actually used ranked-choice voting briefly in the 1970s . Under ranked-choice voting, Ann Arbor elected its first Black mayor, Albert Wheeler. However, after only a year of using ranked-choice voting, Ann Arbor voters decided to scrap it and return to the traditional voting system that we see today. The repeal of ranked-choice voting came in a low turnout election, where only 27% of voters went to the polls.
It’s time to bring ranked-choice voting back.
Ranked-choice voting is beneficial because it promotes consensus candidates. Currently, in Ann Arbor, a candidate only needs a plurality of votes to win the election. Therefore, in elections with multiple candidates, it is possible for a candidate to win with far less than 50% of the vote. Having a candidate win despite the fact that a majority of voters chose another candidate means that the winner may not represent the views and wishes of a majority of their constituents.
By design, ranked-choice voting promotes consensus candidates who have support from a wider variety of voters.
If Ann Arbor voters approve the charter amendment, ranked-choice voting will not be immediately implemented. The proposal states that the change would go into place once ranked-choice voting is approved under state law.
Currently, in Michigan, election law does not allow for ranked-choice voting. While it is disappointing that the implementation of ranked-choice voting wouldn’t be immediate, it is still critical for voters to vote yes on this proposal. Not only would it ensure that we have access to this superior system as early as possible, but by taking the first step to approve ranked-choice voting, Ann Arbor voters will send a strong message.
Critics of ranked-choice voting will argue that the system is too confusing for the majority of voters and that the process of calculating the winner can be arduous. While the ranked-choice system is different from what most voters are used to, the system is fairly easy to navigate with proper voter education. In New York City, the board of elections promoted a robust voter education program to explain to voters how to cast their vote. While the process of calculating a winner may take time than voters are used to, that is a small price to pay for a more representative voting system.
For many voters, especially students, local elections are not at the top of their minds. Unlike last year, where voting and the presidential election were constant topics on campus, there has been very little focus on the fact that there are elections in Michigan this year.
However, just because there is less focus does not mean that these issues are any less important. That’s why all Ann Arbor voters should vote on Nov. 2, whether in person or by mail, to approve this proposal and take an important step towards meaningful electoral change.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.