How ranked choice voting upended the Boulder mayor's race
Driving the news: At least, that's what the results from Tuesday's election looked like for nearly 24 hours as city Councilmember Bob Yates, a registered Republican until May 2022 when he became unaffiliated, stood at the top of the field with a narrow lead.
Reality check: Then ranked choice voting came into play.
What's happening: Incumbent Mayor Aaron Brockett, a self-described liberal Democrat, moved ahead with a 497-vote lead in the latest tally Wednesday afternoon and is expected to win the city's first ranked choice election.
- His margin of victory is expected to grow as the final few thousand votes are counted, and apportioned by first and second choice between the top two vote-getters, as the system dictates.
- The second-choice votes for third-place finisher Nicole Speer, a councilmember endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, are overwhelmingly favoring Brockett.
Why it matters: Beyond creating a momentary frenzy about the possibility of Boulder electing a former Republican, the election is a fascinating study into the impact of ranked choice voting, which is being considered by Denver and other Colorado localities.
- It shifted Boulder's municipal politics to the left, a dynamic observers expect to continue.
What they're saying: "Ranked choice voting really made a difference and changed the outcome of our mayor's election," Speer told Axios Denver in an interview Wednesday.
- "What ranked choice voting allowed us to get was someone who is a more center-left candidate," she said.
Between the lines: Yates, who once described himself as a "progressive Republican," set a record in the 2019 election for council when he received the most votes of any Boulder candidate in 14 years.
- Even though the city is liberal, the voters who cast ballots in off-year municipal elections tend to be older and more conservative — voters who aligned with Yates' support for limits on development and growth. He did not return messages seeking comment for this story.
- Brockett planned to draft Speer and pick up progressive voters — he said he even knocked on the doors of voters with Speer's signs in their front yards, asking to be their second pick.
- But it remained unclear whether voters would pick a second-choice candidate under the new format.
The bottom line: Brockett acknowledged that without ranked choice voting, he may no longer be mayor. "Certainly ranked choice is very different from a plurality winner" system, he said.
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