PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Multnomah County voters have approved ranked choice voting, setting up the county to implement a voting method that currently is not used widely nationwide but has seen growing popularity.
Measure 26-232 is on track to pass by a wide margin, with 68% of voters favoring the measure, according to unofficial voting results as of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9.
There won’t be any immediate changes to voting processes. Ranked choice voting must be implemented in Multnomah County by 2026, the measure states.
But the next races for county chair, sheriff and District 2 commissioner will look much different.
Currently, whichever candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the May primary election wins the race. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote during the primary, the top two candidates move on to the November general election.
The passage of Measure 26-232 will see that voting method scrapped and replaced with instant runoff ranked choice voting.
Under the new voting method, voters would rank candidates in an election in order of preference, with their first choice being their most-preferred candidate. If more than 50% of voters select the same candidate as their first choice, that candidate is elected. If not, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice then have their votes added to the vote totals of their next choice. This process continues until a candidate has more than half of the votes.
Ranked choice voting has been adopted by 56 jurisdictions across the country, according to the group FairVote.
Only one jurisdiction in Oregon — Benton County — has implemented ranked choice voting. Benton County held its first ranked-choice election in 2020.
Ranked choice voting also is on its way to being adopted by Portland as part of a package of changes to the form of government in the city included in Measure 26-228. The adoption of ranked choice voting is on a quicker timeline in Portland, with the city’s measure stating changes will be implemented for the 2024 election.
Advocates of the voting method say it allows people to express their political preferences on the ballot more fully, without fear of “vote-splitting.” The term refers to cases in which two similar candidates split votes from a population of voters who would prefer either of those candidates over another dissimilar candidate. It can result in neither of the similar candidates receiving enough votes to win, despite them potentially having majority support together.
They add it promotes more candidate coalition building, a greater diversity of candidates and discourages negative campaigning.
Read about six other measures on the Multnomah County ballot, including unofficial voting results, here.
The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner.