Voters in the Pacific Northwest’s second largest state will get the opportunity in the November 2024 presidential election to decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting statewide following a successful vote today in the Oregon State Senate, which voted to send House Bill 2004 to Governor Tina Kotek’s desk.
If approved by the people, HB 2004 would do the following:
- Establish ranked choice voting as voting method for selecting winner of nomination for and election to offices of President of United States, United States Senator, Representative in Congress, Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer and Attorney General. [Note: The state actually has no authority to dictate to a state or national political party how it nominates its candidates for office, especially for President and Vice President, as this would violate the parties’ First Amendment rights of free assembly.]
- Authorize cities, counties, metropolitan service districts, school districts and local government and local service districts to elect to use ranked choice voting to nominate or elect candidates for relevant offices.
- Require the Secretary of State to establish program to educate voters about how ranked choice voting will be conducted in elections held in state.
- Prohibit nominating election for Commissioner of Bureau of Labor and Industries [this is a statewide office that Oregonians vote on].
- Require election for commissioner to be held at primary election, where election is conducted using ranked choice voting.
- Require Secretary of State and county clerks to jointly submit reports to Legislative Assembly setting forth analysis of whether existing laws are inconsistent with effective and efficient implementation of ranked choice voting and detailing, to degree practicable, each expenditure secretary and county clerks must make to successfully implement ranked choice voting.
The vote in the state Senate on final passage was as follows:
HB 2004 B
Ranked choice voting
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 17; Nays: 8; Absent: 5
Voting Yea: Senators Campos, Dembrow, Findley, Frederick, Gelser Blouinm, Gorsek, Jama, Lieber, Manning Jr., Patterson, Prozanski, Steiner, Sollman, Steiner, Taylor, Woods, President Wagner
Voting Nay: Senators Anderson, Bonham, Girod, Knopp, Meek, Robinson, Smith, Weber
Absent: Senators Boquist, Hayden, Hansell, Linthicum, and Thatcher
The vote in the state House to concur in the Senate amendments was as follows:
HB 2004 B
Ranked choice voting
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 34; Nays: 17; Excused: 9
Voting Yea: Representatives Andersen, Bowman, Bynum, Chaichi, Dexter, Evans, Fahey, Gamba, Gomberg, Grayber, Hartman, Helm, Holvey, Hudson, Kropf, Levy, Lively, Marsh, McLain, Nathanson, Nelson, Neron, Nguyen (D), Nosse, Pham H, Pham K, Reynolds, Ruiz, Sanchez, Sosa, Tran, Valderrama, Walters, Speaker Rayfield
Voting Nay: Representatives Boice, Boshart Davis, Breese-Iverson, Cate, Cramer, Goodwin, Helfrich, Hieb, Levy B, Lewis, Mannix, McIntire, Owens, Scharf, Smith, Stout, Wallan
Excused: Representatives Conrad, Diehl, Elmer, Javadi, Morgan, Nguyen (H), Osborne, Reschke, Wright
“It’s no secret that this is my wheelhouse issue,” said House Speaker Dan Rayfield following the vote in the Senate. “I have been supportive of Ranked Choice Voting since I was 19 years old. Today, House Bill 2004 passed the senate and heads to the governor’s desk for signature. In no uncertain terms, Ranked Choice Voting will strengthen our democracy. Giving voters more choice encourages voter engagement, ensures people in power are elected by a true 50% majority, and leads to better, more positive elections and election outcomes.”
In the United States, ranked choice voting is now used at the state level in two states: Alaska and Maine. It’s also used in municipal and local elections in over a dozen states. Two right wing states that oppose voting justice, meanwhile, have actually adopted laws prohibiting the use of RCV: Florida and Tennessee.
Seattle is among the localities that has recently voted to adopt ranked choice voting (a measure that the Northwest Progressive Institute endorsed), but hasn’t implemented it yet. 2027 will be the first cycle in which ranked choice voting is used in the Emerald City; that’s also the next year in which the city’s seven district-based positions on the Council will next be contested.
Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County voters likewise approved a measure that NPI endorsed instituting ranked choice voting last November.
The midterms were a mixed bag for RCV in the Pacific Northwest, however, as voters in Washington State’s Clark and San Juan counties each defeated measures to adopt ranked choice voting at the county level. Those electoral failures demonstrate that enthusiasm for RCV is not universal throughout the region.
Blue cities like Seattle and Portland are certainly already supportive of RCV, but that’s not necessarily true of suburban, exurban, and rural communities.
We expect a vigorous “no” campaign that opposes the adoption of ranked choice voting to be mounted in Oregon over the next year and a half.
For the “yes” side to prevail, advocates will, at a minimum, have to do well up and down the I‑5 corridor. It won’t be enough to win in Multnomah and Lane counties (home to Portland and Eugene). The campaign will need to be competitive in counties like Clackamas, Washington, Marion, Linn, Jackson, and Deschutes too.
A victory for the RCV campaign would be a significant breakthrough for voting justice, as it would liberate voters in Oregon from being required to vote for just one candidate. It would also address the problem of spoilers and vote-splitting, an issue which bedeviled Maine in the 2010s and caused a scare in Oregon last year, with independent Betsy Johnson trying to siphon votes away from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tina Kotek. (Kotek was able to narrowly prevail in the end over Johnson and Republican nominee Christine Drazan.)
A group called “All Oregon Votes” is trying to separately qualify a measure to the 2024 ballot that would eliminate the state’s primary election system and replace it with a two-part general election, similar to but not quite the same as the deeply flawed system that Washington uses now, which needs to be replaced.
The “All Oregon Votes” website states that the group opposes the imposition of a “top two” limiter, which its northern and southern neighbors have: “We do not advocate Top 2… as practiced in Washington and California because it’s too limiting, and we want to encourage candidate diversity and broader voter choice in a general or special election. We prefer a maximum number between 3 and 5.”
NPI opposes AOV’s counterproductive effort to amend the Oregon Constitution. We believe the true purpose of a primary is to enable voters who want to affiliate with a political party to participate in its nominating process without having to devote lots of time to participating in caucuses and conventions.
The adoption of RCV in Oregon ought to effectively address or at least alleviate many of the concerns the AOV group says it has with Oregon’s voting system.
Their measure won’t change voting methods in Oregon, even though that’s something they say needs to happen. (In their words: “We believe our voting method should change. Many jurisdictions across the country are adopting alternative voting methods to enable voters to express their preferences more fully and help ensure that election results reflect the will of the people.”)
HB 2004, on the other hand, will change the voting method. If voters say yes, it will bring positive changes to Oregon politics and Oregon government.