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Zirpoli: Ranked-choice voting among election’s many ballot initiatives | COMMENTARY

During the recent national election, according to Ballotpedia.com, Americans voted on 121 ballot initiatives across 32 states. Some of these measures are consequential.

In Alaska, for example, voters approved a measure that will make it the second state in the nation to use open primary, ranked-choice voting in statewide elections. A similar measure failed in both Massachusetts and Florida where the Democratic Party in Massachusetts and the Republican Party in Florida fought to maintain power over their primary systems.

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The open primary in Alaska will eliminate party primary elections and replace them with a state-wide, open primary for anyone interested in running. The top four candidates of this general primary then move on to the general election. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, voters in the general election “would have the option to rank candidates in order of choice. Voters would rank their first choice candidate as “1”, second choice candidate as “2”, and so on.

Voters “1” choice would be counted first. If no candidate received a majority after counting the first-ranked votes, then the candidate with the least amount of “1” votes would be removed from counting.

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Those ballots that ranked the removed candidate would then be counted for the voters’ “2” ranked candidate. This process would repeat until one candidate received a majority of the remaining votes.”

State-wide ranked-choice voting for state primary, congressional, and presidential elections is used in Maine, and in more than 20 US cities, according to Fairvote.org, It is being looked at by other states as a way to eliminate political party power over who may run in general state-wide elections. It also gives equal footing to third-party candidates who might do well in a general election but are not included in the current primary system dominated by the major political parties. Look out for more of these initiatives in the future.

In a second initiative involving elections, Colorado voters voted to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which, according to Ballotpedia.com, “would give the state’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote in states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes adopt the compact.” A total of 15 states have now joined the Compact.

California voters decided that app-based transportation and delivery services such as Lyft, Uber and DoorDash could consider their drivers independent contractors rather than employees. Thus, their drivers are exempt from normal employee labor protections.

Sixty-one percent of voters in Florida said “Yes” to a $15-dollar minimum wage measure effective 2026. The measure requires a $1 increase in the minimum wage each year between now and 2026. And in Colorado, 58% of voters approved a measure providing 12 weeks of family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax split between employers and employees.

The legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana measures passed in the states of Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Nevada passed a Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment.

And Virginia voters approved the establishment of a semi-independent redistricting commission.

California voters said “No” to giving 17-year-olds the right to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 at the time of the next general election. Eighteen other states already allow this.

California voters did, however, vote to restore the right to vote for citizens who are on parole. And voters in Colorado and Florida approved a proof of citizenship requirement when voting.

Here in Maryland, 74% of voters approved a measure authorizing the General Assembly “to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total budget submitted by the governor” according to Ballotpedia.org.

In a second ballot initiative, 67% of Maryland voters approved the authorization of sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities. The money must be used for public education funding. This follows the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal government could not prevent states from allowing sports betting. In response, 22 states have since legalized sports betting either through the legislative process or through ballot initiatives. But don’t plan on betting on the Ravens this season; it will take about a year to work out the details.

In the I-could-not-believe-this-was-an-issues category, a measure was passed by 80% of voters in Utah and 68% of voters in Nebraska to remove language from their state constitutions allowing the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. I guess I was surprised that 20% of the Utah voters and 32% of Nebraska voters wanted to keep slavery as an option. But that just goes to show you that in some places in America, social progress can be excruciatingly slow.

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Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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