Statewide ranked choice voting passes
Statewide ranked choice voting passes (Graphic by Oregon Ranked Choice Voting)

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:

Roll Call
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:

Roll Call
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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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