January 9, 2018

Ranked-choice voting coming to Santa Fe, as state Supreme Court shoots down appeal

Santa Fe voters will rank their choices for mayor in a few months, avoiding the need for a runoff election.

The State Supreme Court Tuesday denied an appeal of the city’s new ranked-choice voting system.

This means the system will be in place for the upcoming March 6 election. Currently five candidates are vying for the position after Mayor Javier Gonzalez said he would not seek another term. Gonzalez is, instead, seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

The Supreme Court’s denial of the city’s appeal to District Court Judge David Thomson’s order to implement the system means that the system will go into place a decade after Santa Fe voted to do so.

The new voting system, also known as instant runoff, will allow voters to rank which candidates they choose, from the one they prefer the most to the one they prefer the least. If no candidate receives a majority of votes for the top spot, the candidate with the least amount of first place votes will be eliminated. Those who chose the last place candidate in the first round will then have their second choice counted, until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.

The voting effort is designed to stop costly recounts, as Albuquerque recently saw in its mayoral election.

Voters approved the new voting system in 2008. But the effort was continuously ignored and delayed by the City of Santa Fe, as outlined by the Santa Fe New Mexican in November. Court efforts began in 2017, but it was the Secretary of State’s approval of an upgraded election software system in September of last year that paved the way for ranked choice. That software allowed for ranked choice voting.

Ranked-choice advocates cheered the decision.

This case has always been about doing what’s best for voters. I’m also grateful that the city has put its energy into voter education,” Maria Perez, the director of ranked-choice advocacy group FairVote New Mexico, said in a statement. “I’m confident that the city clerk and her staff’s vast experience running elections will result in a substantive campaign that will elect a mayor who reflects a true consensus of Santa Fe voters on March 6.”

Cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Portland, Maine all have ranked-choice voting systems in place according to FairVote.