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Politics & Government

Why Dallas Should Switch to Ranked-Choice Voting

It's 2019, people. We know a better way to do this.
By Tim Rogers |

Never heard of ranked-choice voting? For a compelling introduction to the concept, listen to this Radiolab podcast. But here’s a TL;DL (too long, didn’t listen) version:

We’ve got nine candidates in the race for Dallas mayor. That means, with near certainty, no one will get more than 50 percent of the votes, and we’ll head to a runoff between two candidates in June. To make the runoff, then, a candidate might need only about 15 percent of the votes. For comparison, check out our 2007 mayoral race, when we had 10 candidates: Roger Herrera, Gary Griffith, Edward Okpa, Ed Oakley, Darrell Jordan, Jennifer Gale, Tom Leppert, Max Wells, Don Hill, and Sam Coats. Oakley (20 percent of the vote) and Leppert (27 percent) went to the runoff. Hill, a criminal, didn’t miss by much; he got 14 percent.

Is Dallas well served by this system? Not when the field is crowded with candidates like it is again this year. Basically, any of the candidates could make the runoff. They simply don’t need that many votes, and the votes will be spread fairly evenly (probably more evenly than in 2007). A few percentage points will likely separate the losers from the two runoff-ers.

Which brings us to rank-choice voting. Rather than cast a vote for one candidate, you’d rank all nine candidates. There would be no runoff. Perhaps the candidate with a whole bunch of third-place votes would win outright. The advantages to the system: an expected higher rate of participation (“I don’t know who I want for mayor, but I know who I don’t want, so I’m going out to vote against that person”) and a winner that is supported by more of the population (“She was my third choice, but I can live with that”).

Here are the places in the United States where rank-choice voting is used. Are you gonna tell me that Memphis, Tennessee, is more progressive than Dallas?

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