Opinion: Oregon City election system still causes vote-splitting
Just this past spring, Oregon City voters supported a positive step toward improving our elections: we got rid of the meaningless numbered positions for city commissioners. That numbering caused situations where a single candidate could run unopposed for one position while four candidates competed for a different position. That we ever had such a method is absurd.
Unfortunately, when commissioners drafted the ballot measure allowing all candidates to run in one pool for multiple open seats, they failed to take the logical step for how to do such elections. We are now stuck with a remaining stupid rule that still causes vote-splitting.
This November, with two open seats, voters will be limited to marking only two candidates, even though there are six candidates running. If you really like three or four of those six, you can't mark your support for all the candidates you like (well, if you do mark all those you like, your ballot will be invalid!)
There is no reason to impose this limitation on the number of candidates you can vote for. Even if voters could mark as many candidates as they support, every candidate still can only get one vote from one voter. Mark-all-you-want is often called "Approval Voting" and is now being used in St. Louis and in Fargo, North Dakota. It works fine with no downsides. Approval Voting is superior in every way to the arbitrary rule of marking only the same number of candidates as open seats.
Because of the vote-for-only-two limitation, we are already facing problems in this first election using the pooled-candidates. There are more than three candidates running for the two seats. If the majority of us support three or four great candidates but split our votes among them, we might get none of the candidates who actually have majority support and instead end up electing less-popular candidates who appeal to a more partisan minority of voters.
One might think it good for the city to have more choices, more citizens willing to step up and volunteer for these important positions. But because vote-splitting problems remain, it's a problem to have more candidates running.
We need to take the next step and have another small ballot measure to remove the "vote-for-only-two" limitation. To get that done, I guess we have to hope that the candidates we elect in November are ones who support fixing this, among other things. If you find yourself frustrated about choosing which two candidates to vote for when you like more than two, I hope you can at least understand why this unnecessary dilemma is happening.
Aaron Wolf is a resident of Oregon City.
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