Sunday, July 22, 2007

Three is Better Than One

In 2008, Pierce County voters will be able to rank their first three choices in county level races except judicial races. This is a dramatic improvement over the other races on the ballot in 2008 where voters will only be able to rank one (1) candidate. See IRV in action at

Some people are concerned that the Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy wants to implement ranked choice voting in 2008 using software which would allow voters to rank a maximum of three candidates in each race. This software is the only software currently available to use with Pierce County's election hardware.

While it would be great to be able to rank all of the candidates in each race, being able to rank three is far superior to only being able to rank one. We should push McCarthy and our vendor to allow us to rank all of the candidates in 2010, while enjoying our expanded capability to rank three candidates in 2008.

In our current method of voting, voters are only allowed to reveal their first choice amongst the candidates. This results in wasted votes in situations where we have more than two candidates in the race. We are left to wonder about the preferences of the 80,000 voters in the 2004 gubernatorial election who voted for Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian candidate. The voters were not allowed to list their second or third choices in this important race. If ranked choice voting had been in place for this election it is almost certain we would have had a clear winner much sooner than we did.

Pierce County voted to use ranked choice voting to elect most of it public officials. In a ranked choice voting system, voters are allowed to rank multiple candidates rather than limiting themselves to just one ranking. In San Francisco, where they have held several ranked choice voting elections allowing three choices, voters have not complained about the limitation despite having as many as 22 candidates in a single race.

Pierce County should move forward with ranked choice voting in 2008 with three choices per race as a dramatic improvement in voter choice. The Auditor's office should push our vendor to provide us with the option to upgrade further in 2010.



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