Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting

Voters sometimes have the difficult decision of choosing between the lesser of two evils when it comes to elections. What about the times when the voter has more than one qualified candidate on the ballot that they would like to vote for? The Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) process tries to solve that problem.

Voters in Pierce County, having passed a charter amendment in 2006, will have an opportunity to participate in a unique election process to allow them to prioritize candidates for an office by ranking them. Whether this style of voting is a growing trend or simply a fad will be determined over time as some municipalities, counties and even countries have begun to try this new method of voting.

The candidates running for office in Pierce County (excluding judges and the Prosecuting Attorney) will not have a primary election and will therefore, not appear on the August primary ballot. Voters will have a opportunity to vote in those races in the general election held in November.

After the primary election this August, the first difference most voters will see is the number of ballots that will be given to them. One ballot will contain the races for federal, state elected offices and all local issues. Additionally, the RCV races will require their own ballot. This year's RCV ballot will feature the Pierce County Executive (partisan), Sheriff (non-partisan), Assessor-Treasurer (non-partisan) and, in some areas, a County Council member (partisan).

Of the candidates listed for each individual RCV race, voters will be able to select their top three choices by ranking one candidate as their first-choice, another as their second-choice and a final one as their third-choice in the columns provided on the ballot.

Then the challenge begins.

The counting of the votes is conducted in rounds. In each round, all of the first-choice votes will be tallied. If any of the candidates receives a majority of votes, then that person is declared the winner. If not, the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who selected that candidate will have their second-choice votes cast as first-choice votes to the remaining candidates. If the voter’s second-choice is eliminated in the second round, then the third-choice votes become their first-choice.

Each round brings us closer to concluding the election for that office and closer to making Washington State history since Pierce County will be the very first Washington county to use this method for selecting its candidates.

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