Activists Push Ranked-Choice Voting Adoption in Arizona

Activists Push Ranked-Choice Voting Adoption in Arizona

By Corinne Murdock |

An activist group wants to overhaul elections processes with ranked-choice voting (RCV), open primaries, and a uniform signature-gathering limit.

Voter Choice Arizona (VCA) is behind the effort. During a monthly public meeting on Wednesday, VCA treasurer and founding member Richard Cook claimed RCV is nonpartisan, tried and true, and good for all parties.

“We’re not here to change an election system, we’re not here to generate support,” said Cook. “We’re here because we believe in a more effective government. We believe we can elect better leaders to lead the future of Arizona.”

In its presentation, VCA claimed that the current election system fails to eliminate the “spoiler effect” from independents and third parties, limits honest choice in the voting booth, thwarts majority rule by helping divisive candidates succeed in crowded fields, distracts from healthy-issue based campaigns, and chooses candidates in low participation primary elections. It cited low primary election participants as a reason for RCV.

RCV lets voters rank multiple candidates in order of preference, with the initial leading candidate receiving the most “first-preference votes.” However, even second, third, and so on rankings carry weight that can flip a final outcome. A candidate who originally led with the highest percentage of votes but no majority could fall behind another candidate when factoring lesser rankings.

In an example scenario: out of three candidates, none received a majority under RCV though one had the highest percentage of votes cast for them. The third-place candidate drops off, and the rankings assigned to the third-place candidate are shifted onto the first- and second-place candidates. If the second-place candidate far outranked the first-place candidate, theoretically, the second-place candidate could win. 

Those elections that allow for multiple winning candidates, such as for the Arizona Corporation Commission, would need to meet a lower threshold for the majority. 

VCA is partnering with several organizations: Rank the Vote, the Institute for Political Innovation, Represent Us, Unite Arizona, and Save Democracy Arizona. VCA said it planned to form a C4 organization with these organizations to fundraise and gather signatures.

In addition to its partners, VCA is endorsed by League of Women Voters Arizona, as well as a cohort of Democrat, Libertarian, independent, and moderate Republican elected officials. Members of the VCA advisory board include: 

  • Alison Porter: Save Our Schools founder
  • Former Democratic State Rep. Sarah Liguori 
  • Sam Coppersmith: former Democratic Congressman; founder of a top law firm for Democrats, Coppersmith Brockelman, from which newly appointed Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roopali Desai hailed as a partner
  • Lauren Kuby: former Tempe City Councilwoman and Democratic candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission
  • Heather Carter: executive vice president of Greater Phoenix Leadership and former Republican state representative 
  • Art Babbott: former member of the Flagstaff City Council

VCA will attempt to file its constitutional ballot initiative for 2024 later this year. They likely need around 600,000 signatures to make the ballot, since the minimum is around 356,000. If approved, RCV would go into effect in the 2026 election. 

23 other states allow RCV at varying levels: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Two states banned RCV: Tennessee and Florida.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.