Evanston voters will get to decide whether the city should use ranked choice voting to decide local elections.

The City Council Monday night voted to place a binding referendum asking voters whether to adopt the new election procedure on the November ballot.

Seven council members voted to hold the referendum. Two — Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) — abstained from the vote after objecting to a motion to call the question on the issue.

Reid had invited a ranked choice voting skeptic, Jason McDaniel, a San Francisco State University political science professor, to speak to the Council.

Several other speakers, including Benjamin Page, a Northwestern University political science professor; Eric Friedman, an official with the New York City Campaign Finance Board and Evanston resident Alisa Kaplan, executive director of the advocacy group Reform for Illinois, spoke in favor of the system.

Under ranked choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, voters are not limited to casting a vote for a single candidate for a particular office.

Instead, they can opt to rank the candidates in order of their preference.

If a candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, that candidate wins.

If no candidate gets a majority of first choice votes, the candidate with the smallest number of first choice votes is eliminated, and those voters have their votes reassigned to their second choice candidates.

The elimination process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of votes and wins the election.

Advocates of the system claim it leads to less divisive campaigns — with candidates seeking to be a voter’s second choice, if they aren’t their favorite, and can lead to the election of more centrist candidates with broader appeal.

Opponents argue that it is more likely to confuse voters.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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