Daniel Biss.

Mayor Daniel Biss backed a shift to ranked-choice voting for Evanston elections during his State of the City address Friday.

He said the new election system “would be beneficial to the whole community.”

The concept, backed by the activist group Reform for Illinois, whose executive director is Evanstonian Alisa Kaplan, would lead to the election of officials “who have broad support and the ability to forge consensus,” the mayor said.

He said the idea, also backed by newly-appointed 9th Ward alderperson Juan Geracaris, would be “coming soon to a referendum ballot near you,” although the City Council has yet to consider the referendum referral made by Geracaris earlier this week.

Ranked-choice voting, in which voters can vote for multiple candidates for the same office and assign a priority order to their preferences, was used for last year’s mayor election in New York City.

If one candidate gets a majority of the votes, that candidate is elected. But if nobody gets a majority, then the counting continues through multiple rounds until one candidate does have a majority.

In each round the candidate with the fewest votes in the previous round is eliminated and the votes of the voters who named that candidate as their highest-ranked choice go instead to their next highest-ranked candidate.

The system has also been adopted in a number of other cities considered outposts of progressive politics — including Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, California.

After the New York election, a Washington Post editorial declared that the new system “provided much more information about what voters wanted. It turns out that lefty progressives are a substantial but minority group in New York. Ranked-choice voting makes it harder for candidates with a fervent but narrow base of support to eke out a victory.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Bravo Mr. Mayor! Ranked choice is our way out of this extremist tribalism. Let’s let people outside the system have a chance.

  2. What does rank choice voting have to do with Evanston and why is our mayor opining on it? Candidates in Evanston don’t run in partisan elections; therefore we don’t have parties running candidates. In fact, we don’t have nearly enough people willing to run for office in Evanston (see recent D202 board race). This statement by Biss just seems self serving; that he’s more interested in positioning himself to run for federal office than offer solutions to the serious local issues that confront us — crime, affordability, economic development, the environment.

    1. RCV is beneficial regardless of whether or not elections are partisan. Partisan or not, plurality voting means winning candidates may not be the preference of the majority of voters. In a 5-candidate non-partisan race, a candidate with 35% support could win even if they are the last choice of the other 65% of voters. That’s not a recipe for good democratic outcomes.

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