PORT ANGELES – The Port Angeles City Council voted 4-2 against adopting a resolution to consider adopting a “ranked-choice” voting system, a resolution that two weeks ago they directed city staff to create.
Ranked-choice voting has voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots, and combines primary and general elections into a single event. It’s a method being looked at by our legislators in Olympia, and one that has already been adopted in the state of Maine and more than 20 US cities. Pierce County used it from 2006 through 2009 until voters repealed it.
The resolution would not have adopted the method here but would have encouraged state lawmakers to change laws and allow ranked-choice voting should we decide to use it.
Councilman Mike French said he doesn’t think voters here have a clear enough understanding of ranked-choice voting to be adopting the resolution.
“Our citizens did not bring this issue to us. We brought it to ourselves. I don’t think that’s a problem. I think that’s fine for us to do but you know, we’re ahead of them. A lot of people don’t understand ranked-choice voting and I think that in 20 years, there’s probably gonna be a lot of states that have adopted ranked-choice voting like the state of Maine has and we’ll all look back on this and say “why didn’t we do this sooner?”. It works well, it’s easier, it’s less costly, we don’t have to have primary elections. But we’re ahead of the curve. Our citizens really are not clamoring for this. Our citizens, many of them don’t really understand it and I think that FairVote Washington is doing an excellent job of spreading that awareness, but it does take time and we need to, you know, just acknowledge that we’re a little ahead of the curve here.”
Councilman Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, who introduced the idea to council in November, took exception to French’s statement.
“About 30 people attended an event in Port Angeles the election night about this system. And so, you know, that’s not saying like we pulled this out of a hat somewhere. This is an idea that’s been brought before the Charter Review Commission in the past. This is an idea that’s been discussed locally for over a decade. So it’s not fair to say that this is not coming from a community process.”
After much discussion, some of it a little testy…
“We’re not going to be unified on this because council member Kidd heard in the presentation that conservatives vote more than the demographic average in primaries. And so she’s now trying to use…” “I object! Point of order! It’s against Council procedures to question the motives of another council member and insult another council member. You know that Lindsey.” “You made your point of order. Now Lindsey, please proceed so that you’re not having a point of order called on you.”
…the council decided it wasn’t time to move ahead with the resolution and voted 4-2 against, with Mayor Bruch and Schromen-Wawrin voting in favor and councilmembers Kidd, French, Meredith and Dexter against.