Evanston would become the first in Illinois to implement Ranked Choice Voting if it passes
EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- As Evanston voters head to the polls, it's not just a ballot of candidates they will be choosing from. Voters will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on a referendum that could change the way they vote in future municipal elections.
It's called ranked choice voting.
"Rank Choice Voting can make our politics more democratic and less divisive," said Alisa Kaplan, Reform for Illinois executive director. "It's great for voters because they can choose more than one candidate."
Voters rank their candidates in order of preference, depending on how many are on the ballot.
"You don't have to worry about voting for the lesser of two evils, vote for who you want and you'll have another chance at affecting the outcome with your second and 3rd choices," Kaplan added.
All first choice votes are tallied. If a candidate receives 50% plus one, that person is the winner. If not, the person with the fewest votes is dropped from the race and the votes are disturbed to the second choice.
"The process continues until someone gets the majority of the vote," Kaplan said.
The referendum is backed by Reform for Illinois and the majority of Evanston's City Council, but not 8th Ward Alderman Devon Reed.
"There's been a lot of research to show that Rank Choice Voting can potentially decrease voter turnout, particularly among minority voters," Ald. Reed said.
But many studies, including one by the Better Government Association, concludes that ranked choice voting increases voter turnout and leads to more diverse winners.
"We did a study of a New York experiment. It absolutely led to the mist diverse council in the history and also the election of the second Black mayor of the City of New York," said David Greising, the Better Government Association president.
Ranked choice voting is becoming more popular. It has been implemented in Maine, Alaska and in over 55 municipalities nationwide. Evanston would become the first in Illinois.
If the referendum passes, Rank Choice Voting will not take effect until Evanston's next municipal election which is April 2025.