Could Ranked Choice Voting Be Right for Lansing?

1 04 2021

How many times have you felt that voting was a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils? For many of us, in a country dominated by the two-party system, we don’t always feel that either of the top candidates represent very closely what we want in an elected official. There must be a way to offer more choices. A way to vote for a less popular candidate without fear that we are throwing our vote away on a spoiler candidate. Maybe it is time to look at Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

While most City of Lansing elections are nonpartisan, we still hold primaries to narrow the field of candidates down to just a few. Imagine being able to rank the candidates for Lansing Mayor or City Council in order of your preference. With Ranked Choice Voting, there would be no primary and, in the November election, no candidate would be declared a winner until it is determined that they have a majority of support. In single winner races, that means if no candidate receives fifty percent of the vote, the last place candidate is eliminated and those who cast their ballot for them would have their votes moved over to their second choice, etc. Not only is RCV easy and fair, but the cost of running a Lansing primary election goes away.

Ranked Choice Voting is so good at offering more voices and more choices, that the US Justice Department and officials in the city of Eastpointe MI agreed to use RCV as a compromise to a DOJ lawsuit against the city for conducting city elections in a manner leading to an underrepresentation of its Black population.

In Michigan, RCV is currently in place in Eastpointe. It has also been passed by voters in Ferndale. Ann Arbor used RCV once in the mid-seventies and is considering its return. Across the country, RCV is used in Minneapolis, St. Paul, San Francisco, Santa Fe and many other municipalities. It has even been passed by voters for use in New York City.

In August 2019, an RCV presentation to Lansing City Council was well received and a Council resolution has been drafted by the Office of the City Attorney. Because the use of RCV in Lansing would require a change to the City Charter, it would need to be passed by the electorate. City Council has the power to place it on the ballot.

Let’s all get more educated on Ranked Choice Voting. Go ahead. Google it. Check out FairVote.org and RankMIVote.org. Could Ranked Choice Voting be right for Lansing? Let’s let the voters decide.

Jim DeLine is a retired City of Lansing Internal Auditor and is Treasurer of the nonprofit organization Rank MI Vote.


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