Lawmakers explore ranked-choice voting possibilities for Florida
Image via AP.

ballot vote
A Travis Hutson-sponsored bill would prohibit the election methodology.

No city in Florida has ever fully enacted instant runoffs. Now the Legislature may outlaw the voting methodology before anyone gets the chance.

Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, has filed an elections package that would, among other things, eliminate ranked-choice voting (RCV) in Florida.

“I don’t think you should be numbering and ranking people on the ballot,” he said. “One person should win, or if there is a runoff you should go to a top two.”

His bill (SB 524) would make sure a numbering system like that controversially used to elect New York City’s Mayor will never help pick a Florida elected official.

While that won’t have much effect on state elections, all of which by statute are decided by winner-takes-all Primary and General elections, Florida municipalities can and do employ a variety of election methods for picking city officials.

Yet, only one Florida city has ever jumped on the RCV bandwagon and approved an instant runoff system. Sarasota voters in 2007 approved a charter amendment that called for ranked-choice ballots whenever the state Division of Elections certified a system for use. More than 77.6% of voters endorsed the measure.

The idea is that costly runoffs can be eliminated by directing voters to vote not just for their favorite candidate, but to rank their choices in order. From there, elections officials would tabulate votes and figure out which candidates should advance to a runoff. But rather than holding a new election, voter preferences on the ballot would be taken into account.

Any voter whose top choice was eliminated would have their ballot cast in a second tabulation for the candidate they ranked the next highest. Some systems of ranking will apply those votes in a multistep process, knocking out the lowest vote-getting candidates one at a time and reapplying second choices to the next eligible candidate each time.

“It is effectively the same as having a runoff election except that voters only need to fill out a ballot once,” explained David Angel, general counsel for the group Rank My Vote Florida.

But 14 years after Sarasota approved such an election process, nothing has come of it yet. City Attorney Robert Fournier said the Secretary of State and Division of Elections have resisted certifying the software for legal use. If Hutson’s law passes, state elections officials won’t be allowed to give such an OK.

“The charter amendment also said there was no obligation or duty to pursue certification of the charter amendment,” Fournier noted.

Still, the City Commission in September did vote to pursue a lawsuit against the state, working with Rank My Vote. However, officials quickly backed off that, deciding the issue needed further study.

But Fournier said with the pending legislation — which, if it became law, would preempt city charter language — all talk in Sarasota about instant runoffs has temporarily come to a halt.

That said, other larger cities started flirting with the process before Hutson’s bill was filed. The Clearwater City Council in June voted to begin work on their own ranked-choice voting charter amendment. That was done in response to the election of Council member Mark Bunk winning a five-candidate race with 27% of the vote. Bunk notably voted against exploring instant runoffs.

When Hutson heard of cities in Southwest Florida considering ranking candidates on ballots, it caught him off guard. He had no idea such a system was even legal in Florida, but in a conversation with Secretary of State Laurel Lee, he learned cities absolutely could change their charters to call for instant runoffs. So Hutson filed language to change that.

He notably included it in a broader bill that would also raise a cap on candidate reporting fines and allow for elections supervisors to have two more early voting sites.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


11 comments

  • Alex

    January 11, 2022 at 8:48 am

    Republicans know their base has difficulty with “if not candidate A, then candidate B” scenarios that makes them have to think about alternatives.

    Thinking voters is the last thing they want.

    • just sayin

      January 11, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      Democrats elected a guy to Congress who thought Guam might capsize. Democrats put Andrew Gillum threw in a primary. Thinking any party is dumber than the other is lazy.

      • Alex

        January 11, 2022 at 5:08 pm

        Odd how Republicans can’t remember their own plethora of idiotic nonsense they’ve been spewing daily for years;

        But the election was stolen, illegals vote en masse, Obama is a muslim, Hillary sold uranium to Russia, the Deep State attempted a coup, Trump thought injecting disinfectant was a good idea, not to mention hydrowhateverits as a cure for covid, windmills cause cancer, schools are teaching kids to hate white people, Fauci helped China make the virus and distribute it, the 1/6 terrorists trying to change the election were really just peaceful tourists, and on and on.

        There are many many websites just dedicated to Trump’s hundreds of lies and idiotic conspiracy theories, much less all the rest.

        Enjoy feeling foolish.

      • Alex

        January 11, 2022 at 5:34 pm

        And Republicans believe the election was stolen.

        Easily the biggest, fattest, most idiotic lie in political history, perhaps ever in US history.

        And I’ve literally got hundreds more ranging from Benghazi, to the Deep State, to Dr Fauci.

    • Joseph Sarmiento

      January 12, 2022 at 8:27 am

      spot-on correct!

    • Joseph Sarmiento

      January 12, 2022 at 8:29 am

      spot-on correct! the only choices they want us to have are the ones that they provide.

      the real rigging of elections—closed primaries—happens right out in the open and legally.

  • Ron Ogden

    January 11, 2022 at 9:36 am

    New schemes to cook the electoral books are the constant product of Democrat pot dreams. Their crackpots policies, expressed in childish rants and pernicious lies, can’t win straight up, so they try to jigger things until they can win. New York City is merely one example.

    Nineteen innocent lives lost in a Great Society-era tenement. Mask-screamer AOC cracking wise in Florida wearing no mask, and that stupe Salwell right here, too. It would be worth seceding just so we could have a border against these hypocritical louts.

    • Alex

      January 11, 2022 at 10:10 am

      Secede.

      Lol

      Ronnie the proven liar and idiot is even further off in la la land.

  • John Whitmer

    January 11, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    The concern in Florida about ranked-choice voting is quite understandable. Give those pesky voters any more influence than they already have or give candidates any incentives to run more civil issue-focused campaigns and the slippery slope threatens. Much safer to reduce voter impact, encourage campaigns to stoke anger, and keep folks from overthinking elections. Otherwise democracy will continue to rear its ugly head – and we all know where that leads.

  • Nathan Cook

    January 23, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Please push back when the Senator makes statements that are either misinformation or disinformation.

    “I don’t think you should be numbering and ranking people on the ballot,” he said. “One person should win, or if there is a runoff you should go to a top two.”

    – One person DOES win, if the election is for a single seat.

    – If there is a runoff, the actual preferences of the voters determine who is the ONE winner.

    – If there is a runoff, there are huge cost/time savings for instant runoff versus weeks standing up the election infrastructure for a second election, often with lower turnout.

    – The public and those elected have more information about the actual preferences of the voters, because the preferences are explicit and not limited to exit interviews or biased polling.

Comments are closed.


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