Legislation Introduced to Enable Municipal Use of Ranked-Choice Voting
With the support and at the urging of the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization Voter Choice New Jersey, State Senator Andrew Zwicker (LD 16) and State Senator Linda Greenstein (LD 14) have introduced the Municipal and School Board Voting Options Act (S3369) in the Senate, which would give voters across the state the right to use ranked-choice voting (RCV) in their local elections if they so choose. Corresponding legislation (A5039) has been introduced by Assemblyman Dan Benson (LD 14) in the Assembly.
RCV functions as an instant runoff and enables voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This voting method ensures the winning candidate has support from the majority of voters, and empowers voters to more fully express their feelings on the candidates. RCV minimizes “strategic voting,” reduces the “spoiler effect,” and has been shown to decrease political polarization and even the playing field for diverse candidates. It is used locally in major cities including New York City and San Francisco, statewide in Maine and Alaska, and nationally in 6 countries; it was recently approved by voters for statewide elections in Nevada.
“Enactment of this Act would be a ground breaker for municipal democracy here in New Jersey. Voters throughout the State will be able to decide whether they want to elect their local officials with the use of RCV, and see whether that change results in a more responsive and accountable government.” said Renee Steinhagen, Executive for Voter Choice New Jersey, which is leading the education and advocacy to promote the use of RCV in the State.
The Municipal and School Board Voting Options Act would give voters the power to choose to use RCV for their local elections. State election law does not currently permit this alternative voting method, stifling the ability for local leaders and their constituents to make decisions about how to run their local elections.
In December 2021, the city council of Hoboken voted unanimously in favor of an RCV “trigger ordnance,” which will send the question of RCV in local elections to Hoboken voters after enabling legislation is passed by the state. Voters and elected officials in towns across the state are considering doing the same. In Jersey City, Voter Choice NJ recently hosted a mock RCV election in partnership with Councilman James Solomon’s office, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop voiced his support for RCV.
Voter Choice NJ (VCNJ) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused exclusively on nonpartisan education and advocacy for ranked-choice voting (RCV). VCNJ is a completely volunteer based organization. It runs local campaigns for RCV across the state, and coordinates advocacy on RCV at the state level.
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