KRWG

Las Cruces Candidates Call for Repeal of Ranked Choice Voting

Jun 8, 2021

Commentary: Two candidates for Las Cruces City Council are calling for the Mayor and City Council to repeal the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) process used in the 2019 municipal election, and “return to the time-honored traditional one-person, one-vote system” for future elections.

“The convoluted RCV process produced a bizarre result in 2019,” said Fifth District candidate Ronnie Sisneros and Sixth District candidate William Beerman in a joint statement. The candidates said, “Even though only about one-third (37 percent) of the voters voted for the incumbent Mayor as their first choice, he ended up getting another 4-year term because of the RCV process.”

The candidates pointed out that Mayor Ken Miyagishima was in his twelfth year in office during the 2019 election, so his record was very well known to the voters. “Yet almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the voters voted for someone other than the incumbent Mayor as their first choice,” the candidates said. Their statement was read by Mayor Miyagishima during the citizen participation segment of the June 7 Zoom virtual City Council meeting. The Mayor did not comment on the statement. The practice of the Mayor reading citizens’ comments for them was started because the Council meets remotely due to Covid.

“It took nine RCV iterations of reallocating other candidates’ second choice votes for the incumbent Mayor to accumulate the necessary 51 percent of the votes to qualify as the winner,” the candidates said. “At no time did the incumbent have to face his closest challenger in a head-to-head election.”

“The RCV process ostensibly is intended to save the cost of a runoff election,” Sisneros and Beerman said. A news report said the Dona Ana County Clerk estimated the cost of a runoff election, if necessary, at $100,000. “That figure is negligible and nonmaterial compared to the half-billion dollar city budget and the importance of having credibility for our elections,” said the candidates.

“In addition, the RCV system is susceptible to scamming and behind the scenes dealmaking in which candidates can conspire to have their respective supporters vote for one another as their second choices. Multiple bogus, nonviable candidates can enter the election just to trigger the RCV process by splitting the vote and preventing any candidate from getting to 51 percent in the first round,” said the statement.

There were 10 candidates for Mayor in the November 2019 election, in which five candidates each received less than 5 percent of the vote. City Council enacted RCV in 2018. Sisneros and Beerman are candidates in the November 2, 2021 election.

An exit poll from the 2019 election reportedly showed that 53 percent of the voters would support use of RCV in future elections and 47 percent opposed it. However, the exit poll was taken before voters learned that the incumbent Mayor had won the election, Sisneros and Beerman pointed out. “Otherwise they might have answered differently in the exit poll,” the candidates said.