At a city forum Thursday evening, Eric Fried argued that implementing a ranked voting system would help increase student participation in municipal elections.
The forum on ranked voting was held in the city council chambers to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the system that will be on the voting ballots on April 5.
The expert panel was moderated by Kyle Saunders, an associate professor of political science at CSU, and consisted of Rudy Zitti, a retired police officer; Trena Anastasia, a member of the Colorado Voter Choice Task Force; John Clarke, a former Fort Collins city councilman; and Fried, the co-chair of the Fort Collins Ranked Voting Committee.
â€œWe need to do what we can to get elections right,â€ Saunders said.
Fort Collins currently has a system where a voterâ€™s preference is expressed by a single punch on the ballot for each
particular office in which the voter chooses a candidate.
This system has been used by Fort Collins for years, and itâ€™s what the city is used to.
But the panelists who favor ranked voting, Anastasia and Fried, argued the current system causes problems by creating issues with spoiler candidates, negative campaigning, a loss of diverse voices and a lack of a majority win, in addition to creating low student representation.
Fried argued that with the current system, students feel under-represented on the city council. The Associated Students of CSU have endorsed the idea of ranked voting.
â€œRanked voting would create more student participation in civic life, which is a good thing,â€ Fried said.
Anastasia compared ranking voting to buying ice cream. She said you have your favorite flavor that you want, but if itâ€™s sold out, you move onto your second choice, then your third and so on. Ranked voting works the same way with political candidates, she said.
Anastasia said that ranked voting would allow a wider variety of candidates to run because they wouldnâ€™t be discouraged for not being part of the two main political parties.
â€œWhen Iâ€™m buying ice cream, I want as many flavors as possible to choose from,â€ she said.
But Zitti said electing representatives is not like picking flavors at an ice cream shop.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t vote for someone at all if they went against my beliefs or morals,â€ he said. â€œI find it unfair that ranked voting would force people to make second and third choices.â€
Anastasia also said the current system causes candidates to drop out of the running because they do not want to create a spoiler effect.
â€œNow, voices are silently squelched,â€ she said.
If more candidates ran, she said, it would decrease negative campaigning because candidates would be trying to become votersâ€™ second choice as well, if not their first choice.
â€œIt would produce a better outcome than the system we have now,â€ Fried said. â€œThe winning candidate should represent the wishes of the voting community.â€
Clarke argued that the system would be too costly because voters would have to be educated, and new software equipment would have to be implemented into the system. But Fried and Zitti both said no one, including the secretary of state, really knows how much the system would cost if enacted.
â€œItâ€™s really scary that it will all be done by a software program in a computer,â€ Clarke said.
Fried said the system would involve counting ballots centrally and scanning them in, which is already what the city does. Educating the public and implementing the new software would possibly cost $5 to $10 thousand or less, which he argued wouldnâ€™t be that much.
â€œHow much is good government worth?â€ he said. â€œI think itâ€™s worth that cost.â€
Sonia Koetting, a Fort Collins resident, said coming to the ranked voting forum gave her peace of mind.
â€œI think weâ€™re plenty smart enough to figure it out,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m not afraid to move forward.â€
Staff writer Courtney Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.