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March 19, 2018

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It's not impossible to obtain a diverse city council that reflects the composition of Salem and includes people from all the communities joined here -- Salem is perfectly positioned to adopt ranked-choice voting to obtain full and fair representation for all.

With ranked-choice voting (RCV), all candidates run at large and the voters get to rank all the candidates for all the seats being contested (1, 2, 3, etc.) -- meaning that instead of slicing the electorate up by geography, the voters get to group themselves in support of any candidate based on the criteria that the voters find most important.

In Salem, we would have 4 council seats open every two years, and the top four finishers would be elected. This not only does away with the gross disparity in voting turnout of districts, but it also means that incumbents have to compete no matter what -- they don't just get to coast.

It also produces more positive campaigns, because candidates seek 1st choice votes, but then they also have to seek the support of voters who prefer someone else as their first choice ... so negative campaigning has a real cost, because it alienates the voters who prefer the candidate you attack, and then those voters won't rank you at all.

It also does away with the costly primary, by allowing all candidates to run in the high-turnout election instead of holding two election rounds to do the job of one.

Cambridge, Mass. has happily used this system for many decades, and it is expressly allowed by the Oregon Constitution, so all we need to do is think beyond grade-school election methods and implement it.

(At the same time, we would adopt the single-winner form of it for mayoral races, that's called instant runoff voting.)

See Fairvote.org for more information

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