A note about Ranked Choice Voting in Fort Collins

“It’s a safe assumption that voters in Fort Collins are smart, passionate, able to articulate their choices and will fill out the ballot to the degree that they wish to,” Armstrong said.

a quote from the RCV explainer article in The Coloradoan on 5/4/2022: https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2022/05/04/ranked-choice-voters-may-decide-if-system-right-fort-collins-election/7338020001/

There’s a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline for you to consider this November, and chances are RCV for Fort Collins will be one of those issues.

The fundamental question is this: is majority rule worth advocating for?

Yes. There’s a benefit in having 50%+1 of the votes supporting a candidate’s election. The most proven, most cost-effective way to get there is RCV.

Jacy Marmaduke’s RCV explainer article in The Coloradoan is well-written and presents the key concerns fairly.

Pointing to the 2021 Fort Collins City Council District 4 race as “the poster issue” for RCV is distasteful to me because there were 5 ridiculously talented candidates (all of whom I’d now call friends) who each brought unique skills to the table to solve our City’s issues. Shirley Peel’s leadership in that space has been nuanced and thoughtful, with many neighbors’ perspectives being advocated for that may otherwise have gone unheard. How RCV would have played out is anyone’s guess. Procedurally, we can say that the result would have been more reflective of the people’s will under RCV than plurality, no matter who won.

What I am, and we can all be, exceedingly thankful for is that all of the candidates were positive and kind. That may not always be the case. Under RCV, kinder campaigns are systemically more likely as campaigns conduct themselves with gentler language when RCV is in play.

Even so, we really only need to look just a smidge south to Loveland in the Ward 3 race with an incumbent quoted in the Loveland Reporter-Herald saying he did not want to run, didn’t want the seat, and thought he’d served his time:

Direct quote screenshot from the Loveland Reporter-Herald
Source: https://www.reporterherald.com/2021/11/02/loveland-city-council-ward-iii-incumbent-steve-olson-with-20-point-lead-over-challengers/

He competed against two outrageously talented, public-focused, business-knowledgeable, kind, smart candidates in Vi Wickam and Penn Street. The outcome? The dude who didn’t want to run got the seat because Vi and Penn effectively split the vote.

Any voting system (including our existing winner-take-all plurality) necessitates voter and candidate outreach, engagement, and education. Any voting system has externalities and costs. The City of Fort Collins Government has ignored this point for many years, and I’m hopeful that RCV may turn the tide on that. While RCV is a system that – at its core – assumes voters are smart and capable, voter education is NEVER a bad thing.

As a City, we have to be honest about the short-term pains that come along with policies that have a long-term view (plastic bag ban, saving Hughes, etc…) – we historically do a really bad job at that, and it’s ultimately divisive. We can play endless whack-a-mole with conspiracy theories and red herrings, or we can honestly discuss the problems and costs inherent in some of our big-picture long-term plans. Hard work worth doing comes with costs, pretending it doesn’t is a fast path to disenfranchisement and divisiveness.

Read up, educate yourself on our plurality system and RCV, and ask good questions.

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