The Denver Green Party (DGP) advocates for the City and County of Denver to adopt Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as a referred measure for Denver’s November 2021 ballot. To this end, DGP supports the Denver Charter Review Committee in making such a recommendation to the council. DGP supports the council in passing this measure or referring it to the voters. Green party affiliates around the nation have been experimenting with alternative voting methods for decades, and we bring practical advice to this committee. We urge the Charter Review Committee to leave language open to elect the at-large seats using RCV in the event that a proportional representation could be required for the at-large seats on council by identifying Single Transferable Vote as the means to implement multiple-winner RCV. Other suggestions before the committee are not in the best interests of the Denver voters.

Argument for Ranked Choice Voting

The Green Party of Colorado and the Green Party of the United States currently utilize RCV and have been longtime advocates for this commonsensical voting reform. RCV is the only alternative voting method on the menu to allow our voters to fully express their views. We also fundamentally disagree with the top-two runoff election model and see it as a basic right for any candidate who qualifies for the ballot to run until Election Day.

RCV is the only voting method under consideration that would deliver a majority consensus of the voters and bring Denver into compliance with the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act; without prolonging the potentially publicly-financed top-two runoff. Single-winner RCV fixes the dilemma by triggering an instant runoff election if no candidate wins a majority in the first round of tabulation, the candidate who comes in last place gets eliminated, then the supporters for that candidate get their ballots allotted to their second place choice. This process repeats until a candidate has found a majority consensus (50%+1) among active ballots (sometimes a ballot becomes inactive if the voter does not rank all the candidates and their preferred candidate(s) get(s) eliminated and they undervote for the remaining rounds of tabulation).

Thinking forward, we should avoid bankrolling prolonged runoff elections that often turn toxic. Eliminating runoff elections prevents the political cesspool conditions of financial special interests manipulating the eventual winners. Denver adopting RCV would alleviate intersectional voter and ballot-access disenfranchisement (i.e. political diversity, racial equality, gender equality, LGBTQ+ equality, SES equality, abilities equality) while also bringing our city a voting reform our party has advocated for since the mid-1990s. Ranked choice is a well-proven reform used in other major cities and it puts Denver on a path to a more vibrant democracy.

Argument against Abandoning the Majority

The suggestion of abandoning the majority requirement as a means to eliminate the runoff is a step backwards. Denver adopted top-two runoffs to get away from the politics of divide and conquer, and our city still gets subjected to divisive political campaigns. This also opens the door for leaders winning with a weak plurality win. For instance, the Aurora mayor, Mike Coffman, won office with a mere plurality of 35.7% of votes. Denver should not return to an overly-simplistic out-dated voting method that potentially leaves the majority of citizens being ruled by a fringe minority. First-past-the-post voting is not election modernization.

Argument against Approval Voting

The proposal to use Approval Voting (AV) for a June primary as followed by top-two runoff in November proposal is unwise. The position of the DGP is that AV fails to deliver meaningful election reform. The AV proposal is a side-step which wastes precious time, money, and political capital on a reform that is flawed in three respects.

First, AV is not as effective as RCV in finding the majority. It will not be used in a top-two election until March 2021. We do not know if it will yield any benefits or withstand legal scrutiny in either single-winner or multiple-winner implementations. In public elections, it has only been used once in a one-round election. In June, 2020, Fargo used a single-round, multi-winner variant of AV (top two candidates) and a subsequent independent study found that a significant amount of voters strategically voted and that candidates encouraged their supporters to only vote for them.

Second, AV limits political freedom by forcing the voters to either grant equal weight to candidates or strategically vote for only one. As a minor party we reject the implication that a vote for Nader should carry the same weight as a vote for Gore or that a vote for Stein should be on par with Clinton. Under AV if a Green Party voter only votes for the Green Party candidate and another voter “approves” of the Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian candidates in the race, then the latter voter unfairly stacks the deck against the former. The political ramifications of this political gamesmanship is unlimited and in the worst case scenario be used as a strategy to silence the politically marginalized.

Third, the Denver budget begins in January, so a November election does not pair with the needs of the City. Changing the election date to November would require the financial year to be changed. This is a separate and onerous change that should not be linked to the form of the ballot.

RCV has a strong history of proven success, eliminates the toxic and pricey runoff elections, and helps build a consensus with a majority of voters with one ballot. It is time for Denver to modernize their elections by adopting the voting method used by the Green Party for nearly three decades.