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Baltimore delegate withdraws bill for open primaries, 'ranked choice' voting in city

Del. Brooke Lierman said Friday she is withdrawing her bill that would have allowed Baltimore to have several options for new ways to conduct elections, including moving to open primaries or a “ranked choice” voting system.

After talking with her colleagues in the Baltimore House Delegation, Lierman, a Democrat from Southeast Baltimore, determined she was “a couple” votes short of winning enough support for her bill, which would have empowered the Baltimore City Council to consider different election approaches.

She said she is withdrawing the bill and hopes to try again next year.

“Although we didn’t have the votes this year, I feel confident that, working with the many advocates and people who support ranked choice voting and want Baltimore elections to be more open and representative, we can organize to pass important electoral reforms next year,” Lierman said. “Big changes take time.”

Under a ranked choice system, city voters would make their top pick for an office, but then could rank the other candidates for that office in order of preference. There are different methods for how to count the votes but, generally, if a candidate doesn’t receive a majority once everyone’s No. 1 choices are counted, elections officials count voters’ second choices and then third choices until a candidate has a majority.

Ranked choice voting, sometimes called instant-runoff voting, has been used since 2007 in one Maryland city: Takoma Park in Montgomery County.

Lierman’s bill also would have given the Baltimore City Council the power to establish open primaries for the offices of mayor, City Council president, City Council and comptroller. The City Council in 2016 formally asked the General Assembly for the authority to hold open primaries.

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