On Nov. 8, over 80 percent of voters in Evanston voted for ranked choice voting (RCV). The day before, the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees discussed placing RCV on the April 2023 ballot. Oak Park prides itself in being a role model for change in Chicagoland, and we can take a big step for voting reform with RCV, which is a simple upgrade to our voting system that allows voters to elect representatives who will better represent us.

The process requires that a winner in an election receive a majority of the vote — 50% plus one in an election with one winner — and allows voters to rank their top choices rather than voting for a single candidate. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate who received the fewest votes is eliminated, and the votes of everyone who ranked that candidate as their first choice are transferred to the candidate they ranked as their second choice. This process continues until someone receives a majority. A similar process occurs in a race with multiple open seats; the only difference is that the election threshold is lower.

RCV’s clearest benefits are apparent when used in a contentious election. Oak Park is lucky to have held very few contentious and divisive elections, and in every instance that I can remember, both winners and losers have been courteous and respected the outcome. But Oak Park is also a very politically active village, which means many people run for office.

In 2019, eleven people ran for Oak Park trustee. Three of them won, but with as little as 12% of the total vote. Only 51 votes separated the third- and fourth-place candidates. In such elections, it is easy for multiple candidates who share similar platforms to split the vote, resulting in a situation not only in which none of them is elected, but also one where a whole perspective that may be shared by a sizable number of Oak Parkers goes entirely unrepresented.

If the village board decides to put RCV up for a vote, we will have the opportunity to change that, ensuring that we are able to elect a government that better represents us.

Tim Mellman
OPRF Class of 2022
FairVote Illinois volunteer

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