| Perry Waag ∙ The Florida Times-Union |

As more hats get thrown into the ring for the next Mayor’s race in Spring 2023, Jacksonville would be wise to enact ranked-choice voting. Jacksonville already has been doing a majority vote, two round run-off style of local elections for decades. Ranked-choice voting would simply eliminate the need for the run-off round by getting voters’ backup choices the first time they vote, ensuring that as many voters as possible had a say in the final result, which is important considering that only 14 percent of voters turned out for the run-off round in 2019. RCV is simple, it’s elegant, and it comes with so many other benefits.

Ranked-choice voting is entirely nonpartisan and does not help one party over another. Both parties have come to embrace it around the country.

In 2019 and 2020, myself and other RCV advocates patiently sat through over 50 hours of charter revision commission meetings over five months just to get 15 minutes to make our case towards the end of the process. It didn’t get recommended to the City Council. However, during those hearings, former Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland testified that RCV would save the city $1.2 million by eliminating the need for the run-off round. By my estimation, that’s roughly the equivalent of 21 teachers’ salaries.

Not only would RCV streamline city government and save it money that could be better spent in other ways, it would also:

  • Shorten the local election cycle by eight weeks (voter fatigue is a real problem),
  • Make campaigns cheaper (because they are shorter),
  • Incentivize candidates to focus on their solutions to problems and run less negative and fear-based campaigns (which shouldn’t be happening on the local level anyway),
  • Remove the spoiler effect for 3rd parties, independents and underdogs
  • Keep people safer by not making them have to go out and vote a second time (who knows if we’ll still be dealing with COVID two years from now)
  • Find a consensus majority winner after just 1 election (instead of just the top two from a crowded field going onto a run-off round with just slivers of the first-round vote)

Ranked-choice voting is entirely nonpartisan and does not help one party over another. Both parties have come to embrace it around the country. In Utah, the GOP embraced it because in a red city their vote got splintered across multiple candidates allowing a Dem to win with a plurality. RCV would have allowed that splintered GOP vote to be consolidated and they probably would have won. In NYC the Dems just had a crowded 13 candidate field in the primary last month and RCV helped ensure that a single candidate had a majority of support and eliminated the need for a run-off.

During the Charter Revision Commission hearings, current Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan tried to scare the commission members by showing them what he said was a sample ballot of what they deal with and basically said voters are too stupid to do ranked-choice voting. I don’t think voters are stupid and RCV is not confusing. Will it require an education campaign to make the voters aware of how it works? Absolutely. But I have confidence that Jacksonville’s voters are just as smart as voters who have used ranked-choice voting in New York, Maine, dozens of cities around the country, and many countries around the world.

Jacksonville prides itself on being a “bold new city of the South.” It’s time to be a leader. It’s time to pass ranked-choice voting.

Perry Waag, Jacksonville

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