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Thu, Nov. 21

Column: Many benefits to staging just one election



In a few weeks early voting begins (Oct. 11) for the Prescott city general election and voters have to be wondering, why are we doing this again?

This upcoming election is going to cost taxpayers $80,000 or so and is totally unnecessary. There are cities, counties that are able to determine who the majority of its registered voters want in only one election. The savings can then go toward fixing roads, improving education or tax cuts.

They use rank-choice voting.

It’s a simple concept, instead of voting in a primary election to eliminate one candidate, and then voting again in a general election, voters rank their top three (or more) candidates in one election.

So, if seven people are running for mayor, you would only have to rank your top three.

In rank-choice voting, votes are tabulated and if a candidate does not have the necessary 50 percent plus one total, the candidate with the least support is eliminated and votes for whomever was No. 2 on those voters list transfer to the new candidates.

You keep doing this until someone has a majority of votes. Election is over, no need to waste taxpayer money doing it again.

But that’s just the start of the benefits, there are other pluses.

In cities and counties that use rank-choice voting, they have seen fewer attack ads. Why? Candidates are competing to be not only your No. 1 choice, but also your No. 2. Going negative may hurt your opponent, but it may also alienate their supporters, who you want to rank you second. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said in a column by election experts, negative campaigning became bad politics.

Next benefit, no more spoilers. The Arizona legislature toughened laws in this state this year to make it harder for third parties to get on the ballot. Primarily, Republicans wanted to keep Libertarians off the ballot to prevent splitting conservative votes and allowing a Democrat to win.

With rank-choice voting, that concern is gone. A conservative voter could vote their conscience and pick whomever they think is best and rank them No. 1. Let’s say it’s the Libertarian. If the Libertarian doesn’t get enough support, then the vote would transfer to the No. 2 choice, say the Republican. No more having to hold your nose and select the lesser of two evils because you don’t think your preferred candidate can win. You can actually feel good about your vote, and be sure that it won’t help elect someone you don’t want to see in that office.

Cambridge, Massachusetts first adopted ranked-choice voting in the 1940s and it’s used in cities from Basalt, Colorado, to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Voters in those municipalities have given it positive reviews.

It saves taxpayer money, it lowers the number of attack ads, it increases voter turnout (since they only have to vote once), and it eliminates the spoiler argument. Every vote would count.

It’s as simple as ranking candidates 1, 2, 3.

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