Governing mag: Can Adopting Ranked-Choice Voting Make Politics Civil?

Governing, November 4, 2013

“One of the biggest is that it saves a ton of money,” said Steven Hill, the former director of the political reform program at the New America Foundation and a leader in the bid to expand ranked-choice voting to San Francisco in 2002. Cost, he said, can be especially problematic in cities that end up having to hold runoffs in both a primary and in a general election. “San Francisco, which pays approximately $4 million to administer a citywide election,” Hill said, “has saved millions of dollars beyond the initial startup costs as a result of having fewer elections.”

Higher voter turnout is another benefit, Hill said, since the final vote in municipal elections can be held on the same day as major statewide or national elections, when more voters are already casting ballots for higher offices.

Advocates add that the system encourages demographically diverse representation. Since beginning to use ranked-choice voting in 2004 for elections to its 11-member Board of Supervisors, San Francisco voters have more than doubled the number of racial and ethnic minority supervisors from four to nine, including five Asian Americans, two African Americans, and two Latinos. San Francisco elected its first Chinese-American mayor using the system, and in that race, the runner-up was Latino.

…Voters in the Bay Area have tended to be copacetic about ranked-choice voting, Hill said. “I don’t think most San Franciscans even think that much about it. It’s faded into the background, much like the operating system of your computer, which is not something you think about very much.”

From:  “Can Adopting Ranked-Choice Voting Make Politics Civil?,” by Louis Jacobson, Governing

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