Stan interviews Amherst Ranked Choice Voting Commission (RCVC) Chairperson Tanya Liese and Vice-Chair Jesse Crafts-Finch.
The RCVC was created under the Amherst Home Rule Charter, which called for its establishment within six months of the Town Council taking office. The RCVC is charged with proposing a ranked choice voting measure for adoption by Sept. 1, 2020, after the which the Town Council will have 90 days to act.
Ranked choice voting (RCV) lets voters rank their choices based on individual preference. First choices are counted, and if no candidate wins a majority of the vote, an "instant runoff" occurs in which the candidate with the least support is eliminated. The process is repeated until a winner emerges. The RCVC is investigating both single-winner and multi-winner ranked choice election procedures.
Further information on ranked-choice voting is available here: https://www.voterchoicema.org/
Cambridge has used a form of RCV to elect their City Council and School Committee since 1941, and is one of 18 cities to employ RCV in local elections, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; Basalt and Telluride, CO; Memphis, TN; and Santa Fe, NM, according to Voter Choice Massachusetts. RCV is used in Maine to elect U.S. House and Senate candidates, while five other states use it for military and overseas voters.
If approved for Amherst in the time frame set by the charter, RCV would be in place for the November, 2021 elections when all Town Council seats and other elected positions will be open.
Besides Liese and Crafts-Finch, the Amherst RCVC members include John Bryan, Ellen Lindsey, Rob Robertson and Peggy Shannon, while Assistant Town Clerk Susan Audette serves in an ex-officio capacity. The charter requires that RCVC membership includes the Town Clerk or a designee; three residents appointed by the Town Council; and three appointed by the Town Manager.
Liese and Crafts-Finch said the RCVC is in an information-gathering and assessment stage, reaching out to cities that have put RCV in place.The commission is exploring how voting machines, specialized software and tabulation procedures are used, along with associated costs. It is looking at best practices, and public education needs.
Ranked choice voting has advantages over the current "plurality" system, Liese and Crafts-Finch said, and potentially mitigates the need to hold primary
elections. It can reduce vote-splitting, and the need to vote strategically.
The RCVC has conducted two educational outreach efforts so far, at the 1st Day
Celebration in late August, and the Amherst Block Party in September. The commission's website is at https://www.amherstma.gov/3…/Ranked-Choice-Voting-Commission, and includes links to the results of "candy elections" at those events.
The commission plans to speak with election officials from Minneapolis, which has multi-winner ranked choice voting similar to what the RCVC is considering for its upcoming proposal for Amherst.
The RCVC's next meeting is on Weds., Nov. 13, at 2 p.m., in the Town Hall first floor meeting room.
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has had a policy supporting RCV/instant run-off voting since 2005. It supports current state House and Senate bills that would allow RCV to be used for most state and federal elections, and give municipalities the option to use RCV in local elections.
Description courtesy of the Amherst League of Women Voters.
The Amherst League of Women Voters, Amherst Media and former Massachusetts State Senate President Stan Rosenberg team up for “Byline with Stan Rosenberg,” an issue-oriented local government news program. “Byline” will tackle town, regional and state news topics as Rosenberg interviews players in both town and state government affairs.