Ann Arbor voters say yes to major city elections reform

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor voters have agreed to switch to ranked voting in future city elections.

The electoral reform proposal, which appeared as Proposal B on the city’s ballot paper on Tuesday, November 2, received 73% support, according to Washtenaw County’s unofficial results, counting all counties.

The number of votes was 13,293-4,958.

“I am delighted with this result,” said Councilor Julie Grand, D-3rd Ward, one of the proposal’s sponsors. “Ann Arbor voters made a clear choice tonight. I hope our friends in Lansing will note the popularity of RCV and support our efforts to make our elections more democratic, inclusive and representative of our community. “

Live results of the November 2, 2021 election in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County

The city’s voters were asked whether the city’s future mayors and councilors should be elected by ranking, if and when this is permitted under state law. This would allow voters to rank candidates on the city’s ballot papers according to their preference, with the lowest vote winners eliminated and votes carried over to voters’ next elections until there is a winner with a majority.

Proponents say it’s a more democratic way of voting, resulting in candidates being elected who better reflect the values ​​of a majority of voters and avoiding situations like two like-minded candidates who split 60% of the votes in a three-way race and lose to someone with opposing views who got 40%.

Also, because there is less worry about the distribution of votes when voting with leaderboards, it can lead to more candidates standing for candidacy and diversity, proponents say.

Ann Arbor once attempted a ranked election, also known as an instant runoff vote, in the 1975 mayoral election, in which town voters elected Albert Wheeler, the town’s first and only black mayor. Wheeler, a civil rights activist, ran for Democrat, ousting Republican James Stephenson, but he might not have won without the help of the new electoral method. Stephenson was the first choice of 49% of the electorate, 40% voted Wheeler and 11% voted Carol Ernst of the Human Rights Party.

In a traditional election, that would have given Stephenson victory. But with the ranked vote, Ernst was eliminated and those who voted for it saw their votes carried over to their second choice, giving Wheeler the win by a narrow 121 vote out of nearly 30,000 ballots cast.

It was a brief and somewhat controversial election experiment for Ann Arbor that soon went back to holding elections the traditional way that didn’t require a majority for the winner.

With the adoption of proposal B on Tuesday, the city charter will be changed to the effect that future city elections will have to be carried out with ranked voting after approval by the state.

Councilor Lisa Disch, D-1st Ward, was one of the sponsors to bring the proposal to the electorate. Other cities in the US are using ranked voting, and research shows more colored candidates are running and winning local elections, Disch said earlier this year.

Disch, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan who has studied the subject, said ranked voting is legal in Michigan and does not require state legislation to approve it, along with approving new voting machines to one Enable ranking.

It remains to be seen whether this could happen in time for the upcoming mayor and municipal council elections in 2022.

Disch said they understand that the attorney general’s office has been looking into the necessary changes.

“Perhaps a certain pressure from above and strong support from the people of Lansing will bring Lansing in line with this forward-looking, small, democratic reform,” she said.

Rank MI Vote, a bipartisan coalition of Michigan electoral reform advocates, defended Proposal B ahead of Tuesday’s election, saying Ann Arbor voters had a chance to make an historic decision. Voting on leaderboards has many benefits, gives voters more choice, and leads to leaders who better represent their communities, said Ron Zimmerman, the group’s executive director, last month.

A Michigan city, Eastpointe, launched a ranked voting in 2019 as part of an agreement with the US Department of Justice to resolve a proxy lawsuit.

Proposal B was one of four city proposals on Tuesday in Ann Arbor. See results for all four proposals.

With 18,442 ballots cast by 110,386 registered city voters, the turnout was officially stated as 17%.


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