KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As local elections inch closer, Kalamazoo voters will get to decide whether they will get to vote for more than one candidate running for certain city offices in future elections.
Ranked choice voting is not a new concept. Michigan localities Ann Arbor and Ferndale have already supported it.
“Our motto is ‘More voices, more choices,’” said Christina Dorett, a volunteer coordinator at Rank MI Vote Kalamazoo. “We believe that we need to have more alternative views and more candidates running for office. Right now, it’s become such a partisan sport that you only have two (choices).”
In a ranked choice system, instead of a single choice per ballot, voters would rank candidates for mayor and city commission by order of preference. If none of them reach 50%, the new system would not declare a winner.
“The lowest vote-getter gets eliminated. Whoever voted for that person as their first choice — their votes then go to their second choice,” Dorett said.
Wash, rinse, repeat until a candidate surpasses 50%, which supporters say is no longer common in elections.
“The reason for the polarization that we have right now is because we don’t have 50% of the electorate behind us. That’s the reason why (voters) don’t feel part of the process. If you want voters to feel a part of the process, then give them the power back.”
However, ranked choice voting is still not permitted in the Michigan state constitution. A bill in the Senate, SB 1187, was introduced last year to change that but it’s been stuck in committee.
“In order for it to be implemented in any of these cities, we will require the state to mandate it,” Dorett said.
That’s why the question on the Kalamazoo ballot includes the language, “when it is authorized by State Law.”
Until that happens, passing the proposal would be symbolic, but could reflect how voters feel about their voices at the ballot box.
“They are very sick of partisanship and the average voter would get engaged if he or she knew (their) vote would count,” Dorett said.
Voters will have the final say on whether that is supported in Kalamazoo come Nov. 7.
East Lansing and Royal oak also have ranked choice voting measures on their November ballots.