"Ranked Choice Voting" Would Eliminate Primary, Save Money

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A week from Tuesday is Omaha's primary when voters trim the list of candidates in each race to two, then it's on to the general election in May. But what if there wasn't a primary at all?

As the major candidates for mayor head down the final stretch, an Omaha man wants us to think out of the box. What if we only had one election for city offices instead of two?

“I think it would be difficult explaining it to people who have always voted in a primary,” says Omaha voter Verne Haselwood. A major component is the savings. A primary can cost Douglas County taxpayers between $300,000 and $500,000.

“Any chance to save money, we're interested in looking at it,” says Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps.

“I'm trying to show the people of Omaha that there's a better way to do the election,” says voter advocate Larry Bradley of thecenterstrikesback.org, who wants us to consider "ranked choice voting" instead of winner takes all.

Here's how it would work. Using the mayor's race as an example, we have seven candidates. We're used to filling out an oval next to one name on the ballot. Under this plan, you would mark your first choice and second choice and third choice. If one of the candidates had 51 percent of the first choice votes, it's over. If not, the one with the least number of first choice votes is dropped and a computer counts again.

“The reason for doing it, it will give us consensus election results instead of contentious election results,” says Bradley.

It's only an idea now, but some cities like Minneapolis are already doing it. There hasn't been a formal push for any changes in the Legislature, but Bradley hopes to get lawmakers talking.

Ranked Choice Voting has been approved in Memphic, according to Bradley. The state of Vermont does it, along with the city of Oakland and San Francisco.

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