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New Voting Methods

Is Ranked Choice Voting Coming to Jacksonville, Fla.?

An exciting new grassroots effort is underway in Jacksonville Florida to bring ranked choice voting to future municipal elections. Even though Florida is a plurality state at the state & federal office levels, cities are left to decide for themselves how to handle local elections.

All across Florida, cities have used a majority vote, 2-round run-off system for their local elections for over 40 years. In many cases, these local elections are held in off-years with far less turnout than regular election cycles. 

This past Spring, only 24% of Jacksonville’s registered voters turned out to vote in the first round in March. Eight weeks later, in May, only 14% turned out for the few races that had run-offs. 

A small group of citizens decided to do something about this. The approach is to try two different routes simultaneously. Ideally, the hope is to get the City Council to pass ranked choice voting as an ordinance. If that does not happen, local ballot measures can be put on by citizens provided 5% of registered voters (or a little bit more than 30,000 out of 600,000+) sign a petition. 

Due to the time constraints on putting a measure on the ballot, the group decided not to wait to see if the City Council would take action and started organizing this summer and RCVJAX.ORG was born. 

As long as a citizen is registered to vote in Duval County, they can either print out the petition off of the website and mail it in, or sign it in person at a collection event. The first step in the process is to reach judicial review. This occurs when 10% of the petition total, or a little over 3,000 petitions, is collected and verified by the Supervisor of Elections. 

Assuming the petition language passes this judicial review (which is done by the city’s General Counsel), petition collecting can continue for as long as necessary up until May 1st, 2020, when all petitions must have been turned in and verified in order for the ballot measure to appear on the November 3rd, 2020 ballot.

The goal is to get to judicial review as quickly as possible, hopefully by mid-October. Judicial review can take up to 10 business days, which assuming the petition survives unscathed, would give a full 6 months from November 1st to May 1st to collect the remaining petitions. 

Jacksonville may well serve as a linchpin in the overall RCV effort nationwide. If it gets passed in Jacksonville it will make getting it passed statewide a lot easier. If a serious effort takes root to pass it in Florida, a perennial swing state with national implications, it could create enough buzz around the country to accelerate passage in many other states.

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