Ranked choice voting may be on Eureka’s November 2020 ballot.
The Eureka City Council took the first step in making that a reality on Tuesday by voting unanimously to direct staff to draft the language for a charter amendment that would let the city’s voters rank their first, second and third choices for political office. The council is expected to hold two public hearings before it votes to put it on the November 2020 ballot.
“I think this is a very intriguing possibility and I personally would enjoy being able to vote this way,” said Eureka City Councilmember Natalie Arroyo.
Ranked-choice voting allows citizens to rank their first, second and third choices for candidates, said Caroline Griffith, of the North Coast People’s Alliance.
So if you like Candidate A best, but would also be happy with Candidate B, Griffith said, Candidate B would get your vote if none of the candidates got a majority and Candidate A didn’t receive enough votes to move forward to the next round of tallies.
“And that continues to happen until a candidate wins the majority of the vote,” Griffith said. “And that is one of the big reasons behind this, is to ensure that people who are elected have actually got the backing of the majority of voters.”
Arroyo raised concerns about whether there might be increased costs associated with ranked-choice voting if it were passed.
The main costs are upgrading the voting machines and educating the public, Griffith said. The county recently bought new voting machines that Griffith said she was assured are compatible with ranked-choice voting.
Educating the public can also be a process that lasts about a year or two, but Griffith said it tends to work smoothly after that.
“I think the education piece is going to be critical so that people can understand moving forward,” said Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel. “That’s why I support this. I really believe that the public will be educated, that they will be able to make the right choices for our community.”
Eureka City Councilmember Austin Allison said he saw ranked-choice voting led to some positive campaigning in Maine, where it was implemented, when two candidates decided to run together against all the other candidates, encouraging voters to make the other their second choice.
One person spoke in favor of ranked-choice voting and also encouraged the council to look into further measures to bolster elections.
“I also think that we should look into publicly funded elections as well in the city because even more of an issue is the way that money affects our politics and elections,” said Hailey Lamb.