Tuesday, January 29, 2008

King County: Ranked Choice Voting and Non-Partisan Elections

King County is considering both moving the election of its officials to ranked choice voting as well as selecting its officials in non-partisan elections. Both efforts reflect a frustration with our current system of running elections. King County should review what has happened in Pierce County in making these decisions.

In Pierce County in 2006, the voters passed Ranked Choice Voting for county level officials except Prosecuting Attorney and judges. This decision was reaffirmed in 2007 by a 67% vote against delaying implementation past 2008. The Pierce County elections department is moving smoothly to implement Ranked Choice Voting in 2008.

The impact on the Pierce County Executive race this year has been wonderful. Already four strong candidates (Shawn Bunney (R), Calvin Goings (D), Mike Lonergan (I) and Pat McCarthy (D)) have announced their candidacies. Lonergan represents the most significant independent campaign for county level office which Pierce County has seen since the adoption of its charter.

Voters will have the opportunity to see all four of these candidates on the general election ballot in November. Further, they will be able to rank their first, second and third choices. With the strength of the field, those second and third choices will be very important in determining the ultimate winner of this race. Voter choice will win.

In 2007, the Pierce County Council put on the ballot charter amendments to make the Assessor-Treasurer, Auditor and Sheriff positions non-partisan. No "pro" statements were written for these measures in the voters pamphlet. They all passed with 74+% of the vote. Voters in Pierce County apparently view these positions as primarily administrative and not partisan in nature. It is also possible that voters just do not like the political parties.

Peter von Reichbauer is working to put a charter amendment on the ballot which would make many King County positions non-partisan. He has raised enough money to collect the signatures to qualify this charter amendment for the ballot. Given the experience in Pierce County, it seems likely that such a proposal would pass in King County.

The King County Council should consider putting a Ranked Choice Voting proposal on the ballot in November as well. The voters of Pierce County are going to reap the benefits of more voter choice in November. Let's hope King County voters will have the ability to vote themselves more choice in the future as well.



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