Apr 6, 2023 - Politics

Colorado group pushes for ranked choice voting in Denver

Illustration of a thumbs up and a thumbs down with ballot elements in the background.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Denver's mayoral election has been whittled down from 16 candidates to just two, but not before leaving voters overwhelmed with choices. Now, some activists are pushing for a simpler way to conduct elections β€” ranked choice voting.

Driving the news: Ranked Choice Voting for Colorado, a grassroots advocacy group founded in 2017, announced Wednesday it formed a committee to advocate for the new voting system in the state's largest city.

  • The committee, called Denver Deserves Democracy, plans to work with city council members to get a measure put on the ballot to change the way voters pick leaders before the next municipal election in 2027.
  • If the council doesn't support it, the group plans to pursue a citizen-led measure, campaign director Linda Templin said.

What they're saying: Denver's current voting model is "outdated and confusing," Templin said. But ranked choice voting has been shown to be "easy, proven and fair," and is being adopted in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country, including in several cities in Colorado.

How it works: RCV lets people place candidates in order of preference, and eliminates the lowest-ranked candidates until one receives a majority of votes.

  • It not only eliminates the need for a costly and time-consuming runoff election, but allows voters who supported the losing candidates to have a greater say in who wins.
  • "On your ballots, you simply rank who you love, who you like, and who you can live with," Templin said.

The big picture: One of the biggest obstacles for voters this year, according to advocates, was the sheer number of candidates, including nine for two at-large city council races.

  • A handful of voters told Axios Denver at the polls Tuesday that they found the ballot "overwhelming," particularly because many of the mayoral candidates shared similar goals and policies.

State of play: Templin tells Axios Denver support for ranked choice voting among the incoming class of city leaders, from the council to the mayor's office, is growing.

Of note: Denver clerk Paul Lopez said Wednesday his elections division is exploring ranked choice voting and "it is something I believe we can run with the same level of excellence."

What's next: The Denver Deserves Democracy committee says the timeline for getting a question on the ballot is "flexible."

  • The group is prioritizing ensuring a "careful stakeholder process" over moving in a "hurry," Templin told Axios Denver.

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