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Ranked-choice voting is on November's ballot in Kalamazoo and other Michigan cities

wide shot of a ballot dropbox in the City of Kalamazoo. The box is mostly obscured by a blue sign with white letters that says "drop box" in capitals. There are posts around the dropbox to protect it and a passing car and church in the background
Sehvilla Mann
A drop box near Kalamazoo City Hall, October 18, 2023.

State law would have to change before those cities could actually use ranked-choice voting.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the City of Grand Rapids has a ranked-choice voting proposal on its Nov. 7 ballot.

Kalamazoo, East Lansing and Royal Oak will decide Nov. 7 whether whether to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for their local elections.

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to list candidates in their order of preference. If their first choice doesn’t get the majority, their vote transfers to their second choice, and so forth until a candidate prevails.

Ron Zimmerman is with Rank MI Vote, which supports the proposal. He said when candidates are ranked, "They have to appeal to a much broader swath of the community, in order to not just get the first-place votes but to get the second and third place votes."

Rank MI Vote is planning to introduce ranked-choice voting to more cities in the future.

“And then, eventually, we’re going to go statewide," he says. "We’re hoping 2026. I mean, that would be an ideal target.”

Not everyone is sold on the idea. John Clark, chair of Western Michigan University’s political science department, said a ranked voting system may end up favoring incumbents with name recognition.

“If people don’t have a lot of information about all of the candidates that they’re asked to rank, then we might end up with some random results," he said.

Even if the proposal passes, state law would have to change before Kalamazoo or other Michigan cities could enact ranked-choice voting.

Corrected: October 19, 2023 at 10:41 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the City of Grand Rapids has a ranked choice voting proposal on its Nov. 7 ballot. The story has been revised to remove the error.