Commentary: It is very exciting to see the city of Las Cruces considering adoption of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). RCV is a simple but powerful reform that gives voters more choice and a stronger voice at the polls. With RCV, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. You get to choose who your favorite candidate is, and then provide your back up choices in case your favorite is not able to get enough popular support to win the election. RCV gives voters more power, because even when your favorite candidate can’t win, you are still able to have a say in who ultimately gets to represent you. With RCV, you have the freedom to actually vote for the candidate you like best, without having to worry that you will help elect the candidate you like the least.
If the city of Las Cruces chooses to adopt this great reform, it will be joining over a dozen cities across the nation that have already implemented RCV for their local elections. These include San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis, Cambridge, and most recently Santa Fe. RCV is a movement that is gaining momentum. It will be implemented at the state level in Maine, and at the county level in Benton County, OR later this year. Additionally, RCV is used for military and overseas voters in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. RCV is a well tested and proven method that works well for the communities that use it.
Ranked Choice Voting changes the dynamics of the campaigning season. It creates a need for candidates to appeal to all voters, not just their base of support. In addition to seeking your first choice ranking, candidates are also encouraged to seek second and third choice rankings from voters whose favorite candidate is somebody else. As a voter, you are less likely to rank, as your second choice, a candidate who has issued personal attacks against your favorite candidate. With RCV, candidates are incentivized to keep a civil tone to their campaigns, and to focus on the vision they have for their city and the policies they support. Voters benefit from candidates focusing on the issues and refraining from negative campaign tactics.
Santa Fe recently had their first Ranked Choice Voting election, which had a 10% increase in voter turnout from the previous mayoral election in 2014. An exit poll conducted by FairVote NM to gauge voter experience with RCV, found that 94% of surveyed voters were satisfied with their voting experience, and over 84% of voters did not find it confusing. Additionally, more than 76% of voters said they had a candidate or campaign ask to be a second or third choice on their ballot.
RCV is the right choice for Las Cruces. It will make our democratic process stronger, campaigns more positive and focused on the issues that are important to the community, and it will give voters more power and therefore more incentive to be civically engaged.
Ashley Beyer, Southern NM Organizer- FairVote NM, Las Cruces Resident
Viki Harrison, Executive Director- Common Cause New Mexico
Abraham Sanchez, Board Member- New Mexico Open Primaries, Las Cruces Resident