Thursday, May 28, 2009

King County Would Save $1+ million by Using Ranked Choice Voting

King County would save significant costs by adopting Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and folding the primary into the general election for its county level officials. King County's system of electing its county level officials in odd-numbered years is significant in obtaining more cost savings. King County should adopt RCV.

Much has been written and said about the costs of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in Pierce County, but little analysis has been done for King County elections and how they would be affected by the adoption of RCV for county level elections.

King County is different from Pierce County in several ways. It is a larger county in terms of numbers of voters. It holds its county level elections during odd-numbered years. It has a very large number of local jurisdictions such as cities, school districts, fire districts, etc. What impact do these differences have on the costs of implementing RCV at the county level for King County? All of these differences mean spreading the cost of implementation over a larger base and enjoying more of the savings.

To see how this would work, let's examine the last set of county level elections in King County. In the August 2007 primary election, 35 jurisdictions in King County held primaries for one office or another. The total cost of the election was about $3.7 million. The costs were allocated amongst the various jurisdictions and the county's cost allocation was $1.24 million. If King County county level officials were elected using RCV in 2007, the county's cost for this election would have been $0 because there would have been no primary for county level elections. This would have been a savings of $1.24 million for the county.

In the November 2007 general election, 131 jurisdictions held elections for one office or another. The total cost of the election was about $5.8 million. The costs were allocated amongst the various jurisdictions and the county's cost allocation was $750,000. This reduced cost was due to sharing costs amongst the larger number of jurisdictions participating in the general election.

In odd-numbered years, there are always more jurisdictions participating in the general election, since primaries are only held for offices where more than two candidates signed up to run for a particular city council or school board position. By opting out of the primary by adopting RCV, the county will be able to save significant money over the top 2 system currently in use.

In 2008, Pierce County did not experience this cost savings since all counties in the state of Washington must pay for the federal and state level primaries held in their respective counties. These primaries only occur in even-numbered years. Thus, the county had to pay for the primary despite the fact that there were no county level races happening. King County is in a far different position than Pierce County in this respect. Interestingly, there are a couple of charter amendments on the Pierce County ballot this year to move county level elections in Pierce County to odd-numbered years similar to how King, Snohomish and Whatcom County handle their elections.

The Pierce County Elections Department testified before the King County Citizens' Elections Oversight Committee (CEOC) and completely left out the cost savings from eliminating the primary from their presentation. From a King County perspective, this leaves a significant portion of the analysis out of the discussion.

The CEOC should understand that the King County situation is such that RCV will save King County money if it adopts RCV for its county level officials. The probable savings are something on the order of $1 million every two years after the original investment has been made.

King County should adopt RCV to elect its county level officials.

Note: The cost allocation numbers are based on information received from King County Elections.

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At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really hope King County moves towards RCV.


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