Recently, the city of Dickinson had its eyes on a hat drawing with signed ping-pong balls that determined the mayoral winner of a run-off election. In accordance with a “casting of lots” in Texas Election Code Section 2, the city sought to resolve a rare election tie with a luck-of-a-draw.

The mayoral general election back in November had four candidates. Since no candidate received over 50 percent, the top two candidates, Jennifer Lawrence and Sean Skipworth, faced a December run-off election. They ended up in a miraculous tie of 1,010 votes against 1,010 votes. At the general election, Skipworth and Lawrence received more than a thousand votes more than their run-off counts.

Over 6,300 Dickinson residents cast their votes in the general mayoral election. Run-offs tend to have less voter engagement and turnout, and believe me, you’ll often hear residents remarking, “I didn’t know we had a run-off election.”

This isn’t to take away the reported mutual friendliness shared by both Skipworth and Lawrence in a time of national political turmoil, but a luck-of-the-draw outcome isn’t an ideal democratic situation. According to the mayoral winner Skipworth in The New York Times, he seeks to amend the city charter to ensure that ties are resolved by an additional election. Breaking a tie with another fair count isn’t disagreeable, but organizing another election would cost time and money for the city and its residents.

Texas needs to have instant run-off voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, in the conversation. Like every other usual election, the Dickinson mayoral election goes with the “pick your one and only top candidate” ballot.

If instant run-off voting was implemented in the general election, voters would’ve been able to rank their candidate preferences and the above-50 percent majority-winner would’ve been calculated without a costly low-turnout run-off election. It’s pretty handy for races with crowded ballots, and it encourages voters to study their candidate preferences and saves them an extra trip to the polls.

Caroline Cao lives in League City.


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(4) comments

Carlos Ponce

No thank you. California has tried this with disastrous results.

Diane Turski

I support ranked choice voting.

Dan Freeman

Thank you for your commentary Ms Cao. Ranked choice voting is currently used by 14 countries and two U.S. States, Maine and Alaska. It has been used in several other states and in primaries such as the Republican Party of Utah and the Democratic Party of Virginia. Municipalities in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusets, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington.

It remains controversial, but worth discussion since all voting systems have strengths and weaknesses. Arrow's impossibility theorem and Gibbard's theorem prove that all voting systems must make trade-offs between desirable properties, such as the preference between two candidates being unaffected by the popularity of a third candidate.

Mankiw, Gregory (2012). Principles of Microeconomics (6th ed.). South-Western Cengage Learning. pp. 475–479. ISBN 978-0538453042.

Hamlin, Aaron (October 6, 2012). "Interview with Dr. Kenneth Arrow". The Center for Election Science. Center for Election Science. CES: you mention that your theorem applies to preferential systems or ranking systems. ... But the system that you're just referring to, Approval Voting, falls within a class called cardinal systems. ... Dr. Arrow: And as I said, that in effect implies more information. ... I’m a little inclined to think that score systems where you categorize in maybe three or four classes probably (in spite of what I said about manipulation) is probably the best.

Carlos Ponce

Ranked-choice voting produced Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, a pro-crimnal advocate.

"Victims Rights Advocates to Launch Recall Effort Against LA County DA George Gascon"

"CBS-Losangeles Rally Held Outside LA Hall Of Justice To Recall District Attorney George Gascón"

"Dozens of survivors of crime rallied outside the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. Saturday seeking to recall newly-elected District Attorney George Gascón due to his policies on sentencing violent offenders."

Gascón is but one of the poor results of using rank-choice voting where the wrong person gets elected.

"Ranked Choice Voting Is a Bad Choice"

"What’s wrong with ranked-choice voting: Let us count the problems"

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