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After NYC, where will ranked-choice voting go next?

This article was originally published July 13th on The Fulcrum and can be found here.

Following the New York City primaries last month, the debate over ranked-choice voting is heating up elsewhere across the country.

The sixth largest city in Michigan and the most populous county in Washington are both considering adopting ranked-choice voting for future elections. But in Alaska, a lawsuit is challenging the state’s new election system, which includes ranking candidates for general elections.

Ranked-choice voting saw a successful citywide debut in New York City, despite a tallying blunder by the Board of Elections. While some critics tried to blame the alternative voting method for the issues, proponents noted the mishap was caused by human error unrelated to RCV.

Outside of the Big Apple, ranked-choice voting was also used for the Virginia Republican Party’s nominating contest for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. And this year almost two dozen cities in Utah have opted to switch to ranked-choice voting for mayoral and city council races.

Here are three more places where the alternative voting method is making waves:


On Monday, the Lansing City Council moved to put a ranked-choice voting initiative on the November ballot. If voters approve the measure, the new system will be adopted at the beginning of next year for mayoral, city clerk and city council elections.

The council also approved a second ballot initiative that would eliminate local primary elections if the ranked-choice voting system is adopted. Instead, there would be a general election with a wider pool of candidates.

Currently, the only city in Michigan that uses RCV is Eastpointe.


Council members in King County, which includes Seattle, announced this week that their campaign for ranked-choice voting will be put on hold temporarily.

Last month, Girmay Zahilay and Jeanne Kohl-Welles proposed a ballot initiative to adopt RCV for certain county-level races, including the county council. The original plan was to have the new system, if approved by voters, go into effect next year. But Zahilay tweeted Monday that their proposal will be delayed until 2022 due to time constraints brought on by ballot initiative deadlines.

Earlier this year, a bill that would have allowed cities and counties in Washington to decide which elections, if any, to use ranked-choice voting failed to pass through the Legislature. King County is exempt from that prohibition.


Last year, Alaska became the second state, after Maine, to adopt ranked-choice voting for statewide elections. Starting next year, Alaska will use a new system in which the top-four primary candidates, regardless of party, will advance to a ranked-choice general election.

Despite a majority of voters approving these reforms during last year’s election, some Alaskans don’t want to see the changes go into effect. This week a judge heard a case that challenges the new election system for alleged constitutional violations.

The lawsuit was filed inDecember, a day after the election results were certified, by Alaska Independence Party Chairman Robert Bird, Libertarian Scott Kohlhass and Republican attorney Kenneth Jacobus.

“Marginalizing political parties, as this system does, harms the right of Alaskans to free political association, and allows those with money to take control,” Jacobus argued in a recent court filing.

However, Alaska’s assistant attorney general, Margaret Paton Walsh, argued the new system does not violate the constitution and the plaintiffs’ claim is just a policy objection.

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