Multnomah County Moves Toward Ranked-Choice Voting

The county has chosen a different path to charter reform.

While the city of Portland faces growing opposition to its charter reform efforts (see this week’s cover story), Multnomah County has chosen a different path to charter reform.

Rather than combining proposed changes into one big question for voters, as the city reform panel has done, the county’s Charter Review Committee is moving toward a slate of discrete questions to put before voters in November.

On July 5, the committee approved two changes to put on the November ballot: making charter language gender neutral and extending voting rights to noncitizens. The committee also asked for more work on four other topics, including strengthening the authority and scope of the auditor’s office and increasing oversight of the county jail.

Perhaps the biggest change the reform panel is considering would shift county elections to ranked-choice voting, in which voters assign preferences to each candidate, eliminating lowest-ranked candidates in a series of tallies until one candidate gets a majority. If county commissioners ratify the proposal and voters approve it, the county would adopt ranked-choice voting in 2026.

Samantha Gladu, one of the members of the charter panel, says the change might reduce negative campaigning: “Candidates will have the incentive to work together rather than tear each other down and sling mud at each other.”

The charter review committee will meet one final time July 20 to finalize its recommendations to the board of commissioners, which will then send a slate of questions to the November ballot.