Let’s rank our votes and toss the runoff - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Commentary

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Let’s rank our votes and toss the runoff

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, August 3, 2009 11:00 pm

On Sept. 1, the city of Phoenix will be holding its regularly-scheduled City Council election for the even-numbered council districts, and in Districts 6 and 8, more than two candidates are running, according to the City Clerk’s Web site. This means that a November runoff election is possible in those districts if no candidate gets 50 percent+1 of the September vote.

In District 6, the district formerly represented by Greg Stanton, and now by Sal DiCiccio, there are four candidates running, making a runoff more likely than in any of the other elections this fall. This “runoff potential” illustrates both a problem and an opportunity for voters to consider a change.

First, all elections (especially runoffs) come with a monetary cost. You might remember the City Clerk’s proposal to implement voting centers, an effort lauded by some for its ability to save costs, and spurned by others out of fear that too few voting centers would lead to lower voter turnout. The City Clerk has estimated that the proposal could save the city $250,000 per election. What they don’t mention, is that a single runoff election costs about $100,000 (the last time a runoff was held was in 2007, when two council seats were vacant. According to an e-mail exchange I had with an official in the City Clerk’s office, those runoffs combined cost $198,821).

Second, runoffs tend to decrease voter turnout (the 2007 runoffs were notable exceptions). That’s one heck of a deal for $100,000 in a city where voter turnout for a typical election lies somewhere between 20 and 30 percent. Phoenix has about 600,000 voters, so on a really good day, a mere 180,000 people cast ballots. The runoff figures would typically be much lower.

These problems should be of major concern for Ahwatukee Foothills voters, (where people vote in high numbers) if only for the simple reason that local elections and the way they are run affect everyone. High costs and low citizen participation don’t make for healthy politics. A reform called ranked voting, for which I filed an initiative petition with the City Clerk last October, could solve both of these problems. It would cost the city less, streamline the voting process, and likely increase voter turnout.

The ranked voting concept is simple, and best explained by comparison to the runoff system we have now. A runoff is a kind of filter. If the candidate you liked before isn’t available, you have to pick somebody else. Ranked voting systems take that idea and run with it, by asking voters to make that decision in advance.

Imagine a pollster asking supporters of Sal DiCiccio, “Suppose I told you that he wasn’t running in the election on Sept. 1. Whom would you vote for then?” A ranked voting system asks voters to take that second choice and write it down along with their first. In fact, voters are allowed to rank all the available candidates in order this way. When the ballots are counted, ranks are assessed to determine which candidate was preferred by voters the most over all the others.

Different systems count the ranks differently. But regardless of how the ranks are counted, all systems are constructed basically the same way: voters go to the polls, rank their choices, turn in their ballot, and leave. Ballots can be tabulated by computer or by hand. There are no runoff elections.

This does come with a downside. Voters don’t get additional time between elections to think about which candidates they support. The ability of runoff elections to dynamically shrink the field of candidates is gone. On the other hand, early voting and vote-by-mail have increased voters’ opportunities to research candidates and make informed decisions by allowing them more time to vote. The City Clerk’s voting centers proposal also has the potential to increase turnout, if it is well-implemented. Taken together, a ranked voting system and the City Clerk’s reform might be the boost Phoenix elections need.

Until then, we’ll have to wait and see what happens this September. Early voting ends on Aug. 28. As for ranked voting proposals like mine, they won’t be implemented by one person alone, we’ll all have to work together.


Emerson French has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for five years. He’ll be a sophomore at Oberlin College in Ohio this fall and is currently sponsoring an initiative for the city of Phoenix to implement a ranked voting system.

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

‘Trainspotting,’ ‘Simon Killer,’ ‘The Loneliest Planet’ & More Indies Headed to Hulu in July

A great many shows and movies are coming to Hulu next month, some more notable than others. To skip the chaff and go straight to the wheat, al…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 5:01 pm @ http://www.indiewire.com/2016/06/new-hulu-july-201…

Wildfires Fueled by Record Heat Rage in Arizona, California

In California, two wildfires have burned about 5,000 acres of terrain and are threatening to merge in the mountains outside Los Angeles. Firef…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:46 pm @ http://www.democracynow.org/2016/6/22/headlines/wi…

This Video of a Trump Supporter Yelling Racist Stuff at a Guy in a Donkey Suit Is America

Every great narrative begins with a stunner of a first line. "Call me Ishmael"; "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"; "Just a…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:33 pm @ http://www.vice.com/read/this-video-of-a-trump-sup…

Suspects open fire inside smoke shop near 91st Avenue and Union Hills

PHOENIX - Peoria police responded to an armed robbery at a smoke shop near 91st Avenue and Union Hills Drive Wednesday night. The shop owner s…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:35 pm @ http://www.abc15.com/news/region-west-valley/peori…

Chandler man arrested for animal abuse speaks out from jail

CHANDLER, AZ - A Chandler man arrested after his dog died in the heat Monday says it was an accident but adds that the dogs belong outside not…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:13 pm @ http://www.abc15.com/news/region-southeast-valley/…

LaVoy Finicum Supporters Stand Guard At Illegal Roadside Memorial

Supporters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers are in conflict with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies over an impromptu…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:16 pm @ http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-stando…

Jeff Flake's gun control bill is nothing more than a two-for-one deal on our rights

Arizona’s junior senator, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), is making national headlines as the face of a new piece of legislation that is dubbed, “No fly…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:04 pm @ http://ktar.com/story/1132008/jeff-flakes-gun-cont…

An American Sommelier in Paris

When I sat down with thirty-two-year-old Jaimee Anderson for a cup of tea in Paris, it had only been two weeks since she stepped into her role…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:05 pm @ http://luckypeach.com/american-sommelier-paris/

How the Polygamy Cult Will Hide Fugitive Leader Lyle Jeffs

Fugitive cult leader Lyle Jeffs may be hard to find: The FLDS cult and its network of safe houses has years of experience in hiding fugitives.…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:02 pm @ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/21/h…

Flight Crew Diverts Plane Bound For LAX To Tucson Over 'Security Concerns'

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles-bound plane from San Antonio had to be diverted to Arizona after a report that a passenger had interfe…

Published: June 24, 2016 - 4:02 pm @ http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/06/22/plane-bo…


ahwatukee.com on Facebook


ahwatukee.com on Twitter


Subscribe to ahwatukee.com via RSS

RSS Feeds


Most Popular

Online poll