The recent run of success for advocates of ranked-choice voting took a wrong turn this week in Albuquerque. The city council in New Mexico's biggest city voted 5-4 Monday night against implementing the voting system starting with this fall's municipal elections.
Advocates of the system attributed the setback to timing. They said their cause would have prevailed had the vote been held earlier in the year, before many of the council candidates had started plotting strategies for winning under the current system. As evidence they pointed to two of the state's other population centers, Las Cruces and Sante Fe, where ranked-choice voting has been embraced in the past year.
Albuquerque requires winning candidates to have a majority of the vote. If no one cracks 50 percent in the first round there's a runoff between the top two. The ranked-choice system, where voters may list a handful of candidates in order of preference, creates a sort of instant runoff: Politicians with the fewest No. 1 votes are dropped, and their ballots redistributed based on No. 2 rankings, until one candidate has a majority.
"I really think it's an interesting concept, it's something I'm not necessarily opposed to; I just don't think it's something we need at this time," council member Klarissa Peña said, predicting it would sew voter confusion.
The council signaled that, later this summer, it will debate a plan for a Nov. 5 referendum in which voters will decide whether to move to ranked-choice for the 2021 local election. Voters in New York will do something similar, and in the interim versions of RCV will be sued by Democrats in at least five states as part of their presidential delegate selection process.
"The state of Maine has gone so far as to elect their congressional representatives by ranked-choice voting, and I don't think of Maine as a radical place, so I don't think this should really be too scary for anybody," supporter Karen Bonime told the Albuquerque council.
An advocacy project at Princeton University has released a new guide for those who want to combat excessive partisanship in the drawing of legislative districts, hoping it will be a roadmap to help citizens push for fairer maps in all 50 states.
The Princeton project's state information page offers a color-coded map that divides states by "key redistricting features." Eighteen are shaded dark or light green, for example, signaling a third-party commission or demographer already guides the drawing of voting districts.
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Both Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid have taken hacks at the filibuster rules, but it's time to go even further, writes Golden.
Golden is the author of "Unlock Congress" and a senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, which seeks to improve democracy on a global scale. He is also a member of The Fulcrum's advisory board.
It may seem like recent Supreme Court decisions have the conclusive power to halt reform efforts to unrig congressional districts and suck the billions of dollars out of our politics. But this is really not the case. A path remains for Democratic leaders to restore fairness and common sense to American elections. But in order to do it, they'll need to rip a page out of Mitch McConnell's book and restore majority rule to the Senate.
The fact is that millions of Americans of different political stripes crave electoral reforms that would make the House more accurately reflect voter preferences and would slash the corruptive influence of big money on Capitol Hill.