Set your alarm for Tuesday’s election

opinions

November 2, 2017 - 12:00 AM

When Kansas legislators decided in 2014 to shift local city and school board elections from spring to fall they projected voter turnout would more than double.
In Iola, we can’t even fill the slate.
Positions for both city council and school board are wanting.
Local races in 2015 attracted a shade over 26 percent of registered voters.
So it will be most curious if the shift has its desired results.
One immediate drawback is that victors will not assume their positions until the first of the year, instead of almost immediately as with the previous spring elections.
Still, not to be naysayer, we’re hoping the turnout is a blockbuster.

ANOTHER significant change to state elections that legislators are considering is a method called ranked-choice voting. In this case, voters mark their choices in descending order of preference. If no candidate receives an outright majority from amongst a crowded field, then the candidate in last place would be eliminated and those who had pledged their votes to him or her would then go to their choice for second-best. The elimination process continues until a candidate exceeds 50 percent of the votes cast.
The benefit to such a system is that the eventual winner would have a broad base of support.
It also eliminates the need for a primary election — a real money-saver for both candidates and election officials.
Many cities across the country have such methods in place, including San Francisco, St. Paul, Oakland, and Minneapolis. As a state, Maine approved it last year, but is hung up by court challenges.
The movement is gaining momentum.
This year 14 states have implemented 25 bills to consider ranked-choice voting measures.
In Kansas, Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, is championing the measure. It’s probably no coincidence that Esau has tossed his hat in the 2018 race for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections.
With nearly 20 candidates already having announced for the 2018 Kansas governor’s race such a system could be of infinite value.
For example, in the 2010 gubernatorial race in Maine, the winning candidate Paul LePage received approximately 38 percent of the vote among a divided field of four candidates, leaving 62 percent of voters dissatisfied.
Had the field been winnowed by using voters’ ranked preferences the eventual winner would have had a broader base of support than did LePage.
Because the wheels of government turn at glacial speed the earliest such a system could be instituted in Kansas is 2020, officials say.
Still, it seems a change whose time has come.

— Susan Lynn

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