Who is behind this?
Alan Zundel was a political science professor and has worked to promote Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) since moving to Oregon ten years ago. He used his contacts from his RCVOregon blog, his work on the Benton County RCV initiative, and his recent campaign for Oregon Secretary of State to initiate this network. Trisha Driscoll is, like Alan, a state officer in the Pacific Green Party, and she joined in to help develop a new website and social media infrastructure. The RCV Oregon network is now being shaped by people of various party affiliations who have entered into dialogue with us. Eventually we hope to create an inclusive organizational structure.
Alan and Trisha have established a Political Action Committee
with the Oregon Secretary of State to promote RCV in Oregon. Contributions to this PAC may qualify for a tax credit of $50 (up to $100 if filing jointly) per the Oregon Political Tax Credit
Is RCV the best election method?
Voting experts have no consensus about what the "best" voting method is. Probably a majority of them regard ranked choice voting systems as better than the plurality vote system commonly used in the United States. People will have different views about which of many possible goals are most important to achieve in a voting method. Empirical evidence and academic voting theory give us some guidance, but are not definitive. We plan to address the pros and cons of different methods as this website develops.
However, RCV has won broad political support in the U.S. and has a track record of use in several cities and counties (as well as in other countries). We regard it as the best voting method to pursue unless persuaded otherwise.
Is RCV the same as Instant Runoff Voting?
There are a number of voting methods that allow voters to rank the candidates. RCV as we have presented it is the same as Instant Runoff Voting. It has also been called Preferential Voting and the Alternative Vote.
How is RCV different from Score Runoff Voting, which is also being promoted in Oregon?
Score Runoff Voting (SRV) is a newly developed hybrid voting method, which combines elements of score voting and ranked choice. Voters would be able to score each candidate as to how much the voter supports the candidate. The two candidates with the highest overall scores would then go to an instant runoff. Whichever of the two candidates was ranked higher than the other by more voters would win the election. We have been studying SRV and assessing the arguments for and against it. SRV has never been used in an actual election to date.
Is RCV Constitutional?
In 1975 a Michigan circuit court determined that RCV did not violate the "one person, one vote" legal doctrine. In January 2009 a county district judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to stop RCV from being implemented in Minneapolis MN, ruling that "there is insufficient evidence to conclude that instant runoff voting causes any citizen to be deprived of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws."
RCV is explicitly permitted in Article II, Section 16, of the Oregon Constitution:
“Provision may be made by law for the voter’s direct or indirect expression of his [sic] first, second or additional choices among the candidates for any office. For an office which is filled by the election of one person it may be required by law that the person elected shall be the final choice of a majority of the electors voting for candidates for that office.”
Instituting RCV would simply take a change in Oregon's elections laws.
Is Oregon's vote tabulation technology capable of handling RCV elections?
Each of Oregon's 36 counties has its own vote tabulation machines. A few of these machines are capable of handling an RCV election with a change in their software, but many others are not yet capable of handling an RCV election. Vote tabulation machines need to be replaced with updated equipment every ten years or so, and many of Oregon's machines are due for replacement. The Secretary of State could require that to be state-certified any newly purchased vote tabulators must be RCV-capable.
It is also possible to do a hand count of RCV ballots, which is what Australia does. The first round could be done by the vote tabulator machines. If a second or further rounds of vote counting were necessary, the ballots could be sorted and counted by hand. Remember, only the ballots of the last-place candidate would need to be recounted, not all of the ballots.
Why focus on the Presidential election?
The recent passage of an initiative in Maine that would apply RCV to statewide offices has generated interest in doing something similar in Oregon. Widespread dissatisfaction with the election process in the recent Presidential election offers an opportunity to connect a solution to a problem. The proposal to use RCV in awarding Oregon's Presidential electors has allowed us to attract public interest and generate a discussion.
We regard this proposal as worthy of serious consideration. Whether it or some other proposal will win sufficient support to move forward remains open. Various options are being discussed; see our Facebook group, Ranked Choice Voting for Oregon - Discussion
Why not pass an initiative to have RCV for all state and federal elections, similar to what Maine did?
The situations in Maine and Oregon are very different. Oregon has triple the population of Maine and twice as many counties, so there are a lot more votes to count and potential vote tabulation issues. Maine is planning to use hand counting for second and further rounds of vote counting, which increases in complexity with the number counties and the number of elections to handle.
Maine also already has experience in using RCV for an election in which most of its voters participate. Forty percent of Maine's population is in the Portland area, which has been using RCV to elect its mayor. Oregon's voters have not yet had experience using RCV, nor do our counties and Secretary of State have experience running an RCV election.
For these reasons if we launch a statewide initiative, it seems best either to start with instituting RCV for just one statewide election or possibly phasing in in for several offices over a few election cycles. Various options are being discussed in our Facebook group, Ranked Choice Voting for Oregon - Discussion
.What about bringing RCV to more local offices?
We intend to support and assist any viable efforts to bring RCV to more local elections in Oregon. We also intend to help the Benton County campaign in its efforts to obtain funding for implementation of RCV and to educate Benton County voters on its use.