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Ranked-choice voting comes to Las Cruces

A new form of voting is coming to Las Cruces in 2019. It’s called ranked-choice voting, and Las Cruces residents will be using it for the first time when they go to the polls Nov. 5, 2019, to vote in a municipal election.

This illustration appears in a special flyer designed to help voters understand the new ranked-choice voting system that will be used in the upcoming Las Cruces municipal election Nov. 5. The flyer was produced by the city of Las Cruces. (Courtesy Image)

Also referred to as instant runoff voting, this new electoral process will allow voters to rank up to ten candidates from first to last.

Maine will become the first state in 2020 to use ranked-choice voting ballots in primary, congressional and presidential elections. California, Colorado and Minnesota also have implemented RCV for local elections.

Las Cruces became the second city in New Mexico to implement RCV in 2018 after Santa Fe. Under the old system, candidates in Las Cruces city elections had to win 40% of the vote in a given race in order to be elected. If a candidate did not meet the required limit, a runoff election would ensue several weeks after the initial election.

This new electoral system, however, will eliminate the need for a separate runoff election, according to Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin. López Askin joined KRWG-TV host Dan Martino in front of a live studio audience this week to talk about RCV in a segment of “Issues and Answers.”

With ranked-choice voting, a candidate will need to only clear a 50% majority in order to win. If no candidate clears the 50% limit, an instant runoff round will take place. This works by eliminating the candidate with the least number of votes from the ballot.

Any first-choice votes given to the eliminated candidate will be redistributed to the voters’ second-choice candidates. If a candidate does not clear the 50% majority after the first instant runoff, the process is repeated until one candidate meets the requirement and is declared the winner of the race, according to López Askin in her conversation with Martino.

López Askin is responsible for administering the Las Cruces city elections this year and told Martino that several safeguards are in place to ensure fairness and avoid misread ballots.

A question from a member of the KRWG-TV studio audience raised concern over the ability of the system to control mistakes on the ballot. An example would be if a voter marked more than one candidate for his or her first-choice pick. López Askin said the tally machines filter out flawed ballots. “A voter will have that ballot kicked back to allow for corrections,” she said.

About two dozen Las Cruces residents and NMSU students attended the taped session Tuesday, Oct. 1, in the KRWG-TV studios. The program was streamed on Facebook Live. The audience submitted questions along with several sent in by email. This edition of “Issues and Answers” aired on KRWG-TV Thursday, Oct. 3 at  7 p.m.

Early voting for the Nov. 5 Las Cruces municipal election begins Oct. 8. The city of Las Cruces prepared a special flyer designed to help voters understand the new ranked-choice voting system.

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