Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting
Learn how Ranked Choice Voting would improve our democracy here in Melrose.
1. Encourage Participation
The Melrose 2021 election was almost entirely uncontested: None of the eleven city council seats were contested, and only one extra candidate ran for the three school committee seats. Uncontested elections are problematic because candidates do not need to engage with the community to win over voters.
Ranked Choice Voting would encourage Melrosians to seek office by:
Removing the "spoiler effect": With ranked choice voting, those who are considering running for office no longer have to worry about splitting the vote. The argument that a candidate should "wait their turn" to run in favor of a more established candidate becomes irrelevant in a ranked choice voting election.
Fostering kindness in politics: Because candidates may want to win over their competition's second or third choice votes, negative campaigning is disincentivized in ranked choice voting elections. A kinder political landscape is a more welcoming one.
Reducing mayoral campaigning costs: With Ranked Choice Voting, mayoral candidates would no longer need to raise funds for a second election if they make it to the runoff, because the runoff would occur instantly. With a less cost-prohibitive mayoral election, more candidates have the opportunity to run.
With more candidates seeking office, Ranked Choice Voting would in turn encourage greater participation by the community in local elections, because voters would be more likely to see their viewpoints represented within the larger pool of candidates.
2. Increase Representation
Melrose elections currently use a separate runoff election to elect a mayor when there are more than two mayoral candidates (as happened in Melrose's 2019 race for mayor), and plurality voting to elect city councillors and school committee members. These systems of voting result in a relatively incomplete picture of voter preference. The current plurality voting used to elect our ward based city councillors can result in a winner with under 50% of the vote if more than two candidates run. The separate runoff in the mayoral election is used in order to ensure a winner with more than 50% of the vote, but that 50% is only composed of those voters who vote in the second election.
Ranked Choice Voting would better represent the will of Melrosians by:
Enabling an instant runoff elections for single-seat offices: With instant runoff elections, voters use Ranked Choice Voting to rank their candidates in order of preference, and a winner is guaranteed to have over 50% of the vote.
Enabling single transferable vote for multi-seat offices: With single transferable vote, voters use Ranked Choice Voting just as they would when casting a vote via an instant runoff election for a single-seat office.
Studies find that jurisdictions utilizing ranked choice voting result in several improvements for representation of women, and people of color, including:
Better overall electoral outcomes for women and people of color
RepresentWomen. July 2020. In Ranked Choice Elections, Women WIN.
Increases in percentage of candidates of color running for office
John, S., Smith, H., & Zack, E. August 2018. The alternative vote: Do changes in single-member voting systems affect descriptive representation of women and minorities?
3. Save Money, Save Time
With the separate runoff mayoral election replaced with a combined, instant runoff election via Ranked Choice Voting, the city no longer has to spend resources on an additional election to determine a mayor, and can save months of campaigning for the runoff election.
The city spends an estimated $28,000 - $32,000 to administer an election in Melrose, as per the elections office.