We’re trying something a little different. The two memos linked below are not thoroughly vetted and reviewed reports or articles like most of our publications. Instead, we are sharing Sightline’s internal strategy for voting systems reform. These are based on research, of course, but they mostly reflect Sightline’s current judgment, which we may revise with further learning. We tried to make each memo internally self-explanatory, but reforms mentioned are or will be more fully explained in Sightline’s other published work on voting systems. We hope these memos will be of help to organizations and citizens who are excited to improve voting systems in Oregon and Washington and want to know what is possible and where to start. Start here, and let us know what you think.
In Oregon, we think the biggest openings are reforming Portland’s outdated city council elections, urging charter cities that already use multi-winner elections to switch to more proportional voting, and ensuring smooth implementation of Benton County’s recently adopted voting reform. In Washington, we think the biggest upcoming opportunity is urging the King County Charter Review to put alternative voting on the ballot. In both states, buying ballot-counting machines that accommodate better voting systems, such as ranked-choice voting, is a big opportunity whenever a county is upgrading its systems anyway. For example, King County’s scanners currently can not capture a ranked ballot, but the County may be considering purchasing new machines this year. Advocates should ensure that the machines are ranked-choice-ready, like the machines in Chelan, Douglas, Island, and Skagit counties.
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The 2016 election season has focused attention to how democracy is working in the United States. Cascadian reformers could harness that attention to forge forward in improving the way citizens elect their representatives.