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New Mexico

Ranked choice voting explained for Las Cruces elections

When early voting begins Tuesday in Las Cruces, residents within the city limits will vote in a brand new way.

Here’s everything you need to know about ranked choice voting, also known as an automatic runoff:

How it works:

Residents within the city of Las Cruces can now rank candidates in races that have more than two people running for public office. It is not mandatory that voters rank candidates, but it is an option.

For a candidate to win, they must have 50 percent of the vote, plus one additional vote. If no candidate meets that criteria, the voting software will eliminate the candidate with the fewest amount of first choice votes.

All voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their number one choice now have their second choice counted in the system.

Above is the Doña Ana County Clerk’s office example with popular New Mexican foods.

In the first round, none of the foods has more than fifty percent of the vote. The green relleno has the fewest votes, so it is eliminated. Anyone who had the green relleno as their number one pick now has their second pick selected.

In the final round, the burrito has more than 50 percent of the vote, so it is the favorite food.

Note: This is just an explainer graphic. None of these savory and tasty foods will be on the ballot this November.

Why switch?

This year, the New Mexico Legislature passed a ’50-year tune-up’ to the state’s election laws. That legislation allowed municipalities to use ranked choice voting.

According to Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin, ranked choice voting will save taxpayers money by creating an automatic runoff election.

“We estimate the city of Las Cruces will save approximately $80,000 to $100,000 by not having a subsequent runoff election.

The switch did not require any new purchases or software, she said. Because the county has a contract with Dominion Voting Systems which already offers ranked choice voting, she said the cost was “similar.”

How to vote:

Example #1:

Below is one acceptable option of voting. The voter has clearly marked each candidate as either their first, second, third or fourth choice.

Example #2:

This is also an acceptable method of voting. Ranked choice does not require candidates to rank all the candidates on the ballot. If a voter wants to rank only one candidate, that is fine.

López Askin actually warns residents against ranking the candidate they dislike last.

“If there’s a candidate that for whatever reason, you can’t live with, then you should not rank them at all,” she said. “Any ranking gives a show of support to a candidate.”

Example #3

Even though this is not a recommended method of voting, it is acceptable. The voter either accidentally or purposefully did not select a candidate for their second choice, skipping ahead to their third or fourth choice.

In this scenario, the third choice would become the second choice and the fourth choice would become the third.

“(Let’s say) you skip the evens for whatever reason,” López Askin said. “It will move (your selections) up.”

Example #4

This method of voting is also not recommended, but it would be accepted. If a voter especially likes a certain candidate and marks them as their first, second, third and fourth choice, it will count as one vote for that candidate.

“You cannot vote for one person multiple times,” López Askin said.

Example #5:

This method is NOT acceptable. If a voter selects multiple candidates for one choice, the system will not be able to interpret what the voter intended. This ballot would NOT be accepted.

If a voter casts this ballot in person, they would get the option to cast another ballot. If a voters casts this ballot by mail, they cannot cast the ballot again.

Live demonstration:

A news conference on Monday included a live demonstration of the tabulator and how to fill out a Ranked Choice Voting mock ballot. You can watch it in the video player below.

KVIA 2019

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