Run-off elections work better than new ranked-choice voting

Column by Greg Romberg
Posted 7/20/21

With passage of HB 1071 earlier this year, the legislature authorized municipalities in Colorado to use ranked-choice voting in non-partisan elections. I hope those municipalities will be skeptical …

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Run-off elections work better than new ranked-choice voting

Posted

With passage of HB 1071 earlier this year, the legislature authorized municipalities in Colorado to use ranked-choice voting in non-partisan elections. I hope those municipalities will be skeptical of the new authority and not implement it unless and until they’ve evaluated the benefits and problems that process and system could create.

In ranked-choice voting, instead of simply voting for their preferred candidate, voters can rank multiple candidates in an election. If no one gets a majority of first place votes, then votes are recalculated and candidates eliminated until someone ends up with a majority.

I had concerns about this method before New York City used ranked-choice voting in its recent election, but the confusion and delayed ability to name a winner that the process caused reinforced my concerns.

Proponents argue that ranked-choice voting removes the need for and cost of run-off elections and makes it less likely that extreme candidates will be elected with small pluralities. Those are admirable goals and ranked-choice voting could be a way to achieve them, but I think elections with run-offs of the top two candidates to elect municipal officials in non-partisan elections is a better way to go.

When a field is narrowed to two final candidates, the additional scrutiny by voters and the media as well as the additional exposure of the finalists often provide a clear vision for voters of the final candidates which can allow better candidates to be elected. While we should always look for ways to reduce government costs, the expense of a run-off election if it results in voters having more information and making the best possible choices is a small price to pay.

In memoriam

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Cox last month. Bob was the owner and publisher of most of the newspapers in Jefferson County in the 1990s. I first met him when he was part of the Colorado Press Association committee that selected me to lobby for the organization.

As I think back on my over 20 years representing CPA, I remember Bob as the epitome of a newspaper man. Whether it was his dogged commitment to hold government officials’ feet to the fire to making sure public resources were properly used and corruption was not tolerated or my memories of him wearing a trench coat and carrying a reporter’s note pad, he always was the reflection of a consummate journalist.

He influenced me in ways he never knew and represented a golden era in community journalism.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.

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