With deadlines looming, King County hits pause on push for ranked choice voting
Ranked choice voting in King County will have to wait, after county councilmembers opted to delay plans that would have put it to voters this November.
The initial proposal was led by County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, and would have had voters decide on whether to give King County Council the authority to amend its charter to allow ranked choice voting, and then begin the process of devising a roadmap.
Despite the relative success it has seen in cities like San Francisco, Oakland, St. Paul, Santa Fe, and elsewhere, King County councilmembers expressed concerns over rushing the process ahead of the November 2021 election.
“Most of my colleagues shared our interest but understandably wanted more time to work through the details without the fast deadlines associated with this November’s ballot,” Zahilay said on Twitter.
Councilmembers had also heard a range of feedback from the public. While supporters touted how it could bring “more equitable representation” to the election process, others spoke of “serious downsides that have not been discussed or explored.”
Ranked choice voting has been implemented in 20 jurisdictions across the United States over the last decade-plus.
In practice, it allows voters to list their favorite candidates in order of preference. On the tabulation side, if any one person garners 50% of first place votes, the election is over and that candidate wins. In the event there’s no majority winner, ballots are put through an automated runoff, starting from the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes.
That candidate is then immediately eliminated. After that, all of the people who listed that last-place candidate as their first choice will have their second-choice votes allocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate has a majority after that, the process repeats again and again, moving from the bottom up until someone gets to 50%.
Zahilay plans to continue working on his proposal with eyes toward the 2022 ballot, crediting early support as having “laid the foundation” for the near future.