Riverside weighs ranked-choice voting in local elections; would be first in Ohio

City Council had approved putting the question to Riverside voters in November, but may reverse course at council meeting Thursday

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Riverside City Council appeared ready to let residents decide whether to use ranked-choice voting in future city elections, which would be a first in Ohio. But now, on Thursday night, the city will consider repealing for now its earlier move to put that question on the ballot.

Ranked-choice voting involves casting ballots that rate all the listed candidates in order of preference (first, second, third for example), rather than just choosing one. Accumulative totals decide the winner.

Riverside City Council earlier this month voted 4-2 to place a charter amendment on the November ballot asking voters if they want ranked-choice voting. Thursday night it is set to address a measure repealing that charter proposal.

“There’s a question that has popped up from us that we’re asking for our law director to review,” Riverside Mayor Pete Williams said. “It could land on the ballot this November or sometime in the future.”

Last year, Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, and Sen. Bill DeMora, D-Columbus, introduced state legislation opposing any change to ranked-choice voting. It has not been approved.

Senate Bill 137 seeks “to generally prohibit the use of ranked-choice voting and to withhold local government fund distributions from a municipality or chartered county that uses ranked-choice voting.”

If SB 137 or a similar proposal to “discourage ranked-choice” becomes law, any charter amendment approved by Riverside voters would become moot, City Manager Josh Rauch told council members earlier this month.

The Rank Choice Voting Resource Center said ranked-choice voting was used in 62 U.S. jurisdictions in the 2022 elections. That includes two states — Alaska and Maine — and three major cities, Minneapolis, New York City and San Francisco, according to the center’s website.

Ranked-choice voting is not practiced anywhere in Ohio, said Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jeff Rezabek, who is scheduled to address Riverside officials Thursday night.

Riverside council members who voted to place the charter amendment on the ballot said city residents should decide what method is used to cast votes in local elections.

Voter approval of the change would encourage more candidates, ensure winners in multiple-candidate races get a majority of the vote, and would encourage campaign civility, Councilwoman Brenda Fry said.

“Candidates who negative-campaign are not going to get their opponents’ second-choice vote,” Fry said. “It incentivizes candidates to appeal to voters who may have a different first-choice candidate … Civility is something I think is really important for me.”

Councilman Jesse Maxfield opposed the charter change.

“At this point in time, it’s not the right time or right place for the city,” he said. “What we have in place now has been working” since the city incorporated in the 1990s.

Ohio is among more than 20 states rated by the Rank Choice Voting Resource Center as “prepping for RCV,” meaning between 25% and 99% of jurisdictions have RCV-capable hardware.

Alaska, Maine and New Mexico are “RCV Ready” states, in which 100% of jurisdictions have RCV-capable hardware and software.

Michigan is among more than a dozen “RCV Capable” states, where 100% of jurisdictions have RCV-capable hardware but may need software upgrades, according to the resource center.

About the Author