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Law & Principles

Ray Carter | February 12, 2024

Ban on ranked-choice voting advances

Ray Carter

Under a bill advanced by the House Elections and Ethics Committee, the practice of ranked-choice voting would not be allowed in Oklahoma elections.

“It’s been said that Oklahoma’s election laws are some of the best in the nation,” said state Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City. “Why would we scrap them for another system that relies on computer algorithms to choose the winner? Your election night you won’t know the results of the election until possibly weeks later.”

In a ranked-choice voting system, voters cast ballots to designate their first choice in a race, their second choice, and so on down the ballot. If no candidate receives majority support, the second-choice votes of the candidate who finishes last are reallocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote, the process repeats again and again until one candidate has received a majority.

House Bill 3156, by Roberts, would ban the use of ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma.

During a legislative study conducted last September, experts warned Oklahoma lawmakers that ranked-choice voting would eliminate swift tabulation of election results and also make manual recounts impossible because of the many ballots involved and the complexity of tabulating results.

“I think the days of knowing the election results on election night would be long gone,” Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax told lawmakers at last year’s study.

Roberts said the extra ballot pages required for ranked-choice voting in major state races would cost about $475,000 per page, increasing the cost of administering state elections.

And that comes on top of the cost of buying all new voting machines because the state’s current machines cannot process ranked-choice ballots.

State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, opposed the bill’s passage, saying it infringes on local control of municipal elections and claiming that many voters would prefer the ranked-choice process to current election processes.

“You have the heavy hand of state government that is dictating to local municipalities on what they can and cannot do when it comes to their local elections,” Dollens said.

He also said some cost savings would be achieved with ranked-choice voting since it would eliminate runoff elections.

HB 3156 passed the House Elections and Ethics Committee on a 5-2 vote that broke along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed.

The bill can next be heard on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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