A state bill would allow the Montgomery County Council to change the way residents vote in local elections.
BETHESDA, MD — A bill that could change the way Montgomery County residents vote in local elections is being considered in the Maryland legislature.
Proposed by Del. Eric Luedtke and Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), the bill would allow the Montgomery County Council to adopt a ranked-choice voting or an approval voting system.
Under a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank candidates for office in order of preference. The candidate with the majority of first-preference votes wins. If no one receives the majority, at first, election officials will tally voters’ subsequent choices until there is a winner.
The Montgomery County delegation voted unanimously in support of the bill on Friday.
Amendments made in the bill involved “requiring a local law adopting ranked choice voting or approval voting to provide for an educational campaign explaining how to vote using ranked–choice voting or approval voting.”
The proposal will go before the House Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 19.
Kagan said that the bill had been introduced to the delegation last year, but only passed by a narrow margin.
“Sometimes it takes another year or two for legislators to feel comfortable with a new issue,” Kagan told Patch.
According to FairVote.gov, a Montgomery County-based organization that advocates for electoral reform, more than a dozen cities across the U.S. have adopted a ranked-choice voting system. Areas include:
- Basalt, Colorado: Adopted in 2002 and will be used when three or more candidates run for mayor.
- : Adopted in 2004 and has been used since 2010 to elect the mayor, city council and city auditor
- : In use since the 1940s in multi-winner RCV form for the nine seat city council and six seat school board elected citywide
- Carbondale, Colorado: Adopted in 2002 for mayor when there are three or more candidates
- : Adopted in 2006 and used since 2009, in elections for 22 city offices, including mayor and city council in single winner elections and some multi-winner park board seats
- : Adopted in 2006 and used since 2010 for a total of 18 city offices, including mayor and city council
- : Adopted in 2010 and used since 2011 for electing mayor
- : Adopted in 2016 and first used in June 2018 for all state and federal primary elections
- : Adopted in 2002 and used since 2004 to elect the mayor, city attorney, Board of Supervisors and five additional citywide offices
- : Adopted as option in 2000 charter amendment and used since 2010 to elect the mayor and city council
- : Adopted in 2008 and used since March 2018 for mayor, city council, and municipal judge
- : Adopted in 2009, used since 2011 to elect the mayor and city council
- : Adopted in 2006 and used since 2007 in all elections for mayor and city council
- : Adopted in 2008 and used since 2011 to elect the mayor when three candidates run, as in 2011 and 2015
Kagan said that the traditional voting method makes it impossible for voters to express how they feel about each candidate.
“I think (Montgomery County) voters were overwhelmed last year when they were faced with six candidates for County Executive and 33 for County Council,” Kagan said. “There was no way that they could express their true intent with the traditional methods of voting.”
Kagan said that it wouldn’t be difficult for residents to adjust to a new voting system.
“Voters make decisions every day and are faced with a series of choices, whether it’s about which flavored ice cream they ordered, or what kind of beer is available on tap, or what outfit to choose in the morning,” Kagan said.