Advocates for Ranked-Choice Voting Argue It Will Attract More Qualified, More Cooperative and More Representative Candidates

Portland’s charter reform proposal includes a novel combination of multimember districts and a single, transferable ranked-choice vote.

The conference room at WW’s office grew heated this morning when proponents of a city of Portland charter reform proposal argued with critics of the proposal.

In November, voters decide on a single reform proposal that includes three major changes: expansion of the City Council to four geographic districts, each represented by three commissioners; the elevation of the mayor to a chief executive, who would work with a city manager approved by the council to run all city bureaus; and a new way of electing candidates: ranked-choice voting with a single, transferable vote in each election (see the link below for an explanation).

Related: We Tried to Imagine How Voting Would Work Under Portland’s Proposed Charter Reforms

In the video below, the pro-reform side is represented by (from left to right) Reed College political science professor Paul Gronke; Debbie Kitchin, co-owner of the contracting firm Interworks LLC; and Becca Uherbelau, an aide to Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. The “no” side is represented by longtime civil rights advocate Kathleen Saadat; David Knowles, director of transportation for Otak, an architectural and engineering firm; and Alisa Pyszka, president of Bridge Economic Development. Kitchin, Uherbelau and Knowles all serve on the 20-member Charter Review Commission.

Gronke presented the benefits of transferable ranked-choice voting, arguing that voters would have more and better choices than in the current, first-past-the post system where only one candidate wins.

“It’s a completely different way for voters to think about it,” Gronke said. “I don’t have to choose my least-worst outcome.”

Reporters pushed back on his premise, questioning whether the issue is the mechanism by which candidates are elected or the candidates themselves.