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Ranked Choice Voting Gets First Use In Oregon

Chris Lehman

For the first time ever, some Oregon voters used ranked choice voting to select candidates in this month’s election.

Ranked choice voting applies in races with three or more names on the ballot. It allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. If no single candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then the second-choice votes are counted.

Voters in Benton County approved ranked choice voting for county races in 2016, and this year was the first time it was used. There were three candidates on the ballot in both county commission races.

Blair Bobier of Oregon Ranked Choice Voting Advocates said neither of the contests ultimately required second choices to be tabulated. “In both races, candidates won outright, so both candidates were elected with over 50 percent, and there was no need for the instant runoff,” he said.

Still, Bobier said the initial run of ranked choice voting could yield insights. "It will be interesting to see how many people selected a second or third choice," he said. "I'm hopeful we'll get that information from the county elections office."

The next possible use of ranked choice voting in Benton County will be for a single county commission seat in 2022, but only if at least three candidates are on the general election ballot.

Bobier said durng the next legislative session, his group will ask Oregon lawmakers to consider expanding ranked choice voting statewide in upcoming elections.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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