Voters would get more choices on their local election ballot under a plan approved unanimously by Evanston’s Rules Committee this week.

But the proposal to conduct city elections with ranked choice voting still needs another vote at a City Council meeting to be placed on the ballot — and then approval by voters in a referendum to take effect.

Ranked choice voting lets voters rank their choice of candidate by ordered preference, with those rankings used to determine a winner in the event no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes.

It gained considerable attention last year when New York City used the technique for the first time in its mayoral election.

Larry Garfield of Fair Vote Illinois told council members Monday night ranked choice voting has been used for about two decades in San Francisco, Berkeley and other cities in California’s San Francisco Bay area and for years in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?
A video from Fair Vote explaining how ranked choice voting works.

The proposal to bring ranked choice voting to Evanston was initiated by Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) and was endorsed by Mayor Daniel Biss during his state of the city address last month.

Some council members, including Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), said they hoped that backers of the measure would appear at ward meetings before the council vote to help explain the concept.

But others fully embraced it.

“I enthusiastically support this,” Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said, adding that it would eliminate the need to hold a primary election. That, he said, would reduce the cost of campaigns and lead to a more inclusive process — with more candidates able to participate.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she strongly supports the proposal, which she said also has the backing of the League of Women Voters.

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings said the council would have to vote by Aug. 8 to get the referendum on the November ballot.

He also indicated that there could be technical issues with implementing the plan. No city in Illinois now uses ranked choice voting and the state board of elections would have to adopt new rules for how the ballots should be formatted.

If approved by voters, ranked choice voting would be used in contests for Evanston’s mayor, alderpersons and city clerk.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Too bad it sounds like RCV wouldn’t apply to the D65 elections, which is probably what needs RCV more than any of the other positions up for election around here.

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