Epic Text Books
Feb. 20, 2024
Democracy Watch

Proposal to Ban Ranked Choice Voting in Oklahoma Advances

State Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, asks State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax a question during an interim study on ranked choice voting held Sept. 12, 2023 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (Keaton Ross/Epic Text Books)

By Keaton Ross | Democracy/Criminal Justice Reporter

A bill to ban ranked choice voting statewide cleared a House committee last week, prompting pushback from one lawmaker who argues the system would benefit voters and candidates alike.

House Bill 3156 by Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, would prohibit ranked-choice voting in statewide and municipal elections. A handful of other states and dozens of municipalities utilize the method, where voters rank candidates by preference, and results are narrowed until one candidate receives a majority of votes. 

While no municipality in Oklahoma has authorized ranked choice voting, and the state’s current fleet of voting machines cannot accommodate the voting method, Roberts told members of the House Elections and Ethics Committee the bill is necessary to protect the elderly and others from a more complex voting system. He said possible errors could “hide the true intent of the voting public.”

The bill cleared the committee on a 5-2 party-line vote and is now eligible to be considered by the full House.

Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, debated against the measure, arguing that ranked-choice voting has the potential to reduce negative campaigning and bolster third-party candidates. Supporters of the method often note that candidates must garner second or third-place votes to have a realistic shot of winning, leading to campaigns focused on policy instead of personal attacks.

Several Republican-led states, including Tennessee, Florida, and Idaho, have passed legislation banning ranked choice voting since 2022. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit organization of conservative state lawmakers that drafts and shares model legislation, has a draft proposal for states who wish to ban the method.

Roberts noted during the hearing that some private organizations utilize ranked choice voting for selecting leadership or making organizational decisions. Senate Republicans utilized something similar to ranked-choice voting in selecting Greg McCortney as the president pro tempore designee last week.

For more context on ranked-choice voting, check out my coverage from last fall. Have thoughts or questions on this issue, or another story idea? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.

What I'm Reading This Week:

  • Medical Marijuana Is Legal, But Oklahoma Is Charging Women for Using It While Pregnant: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is expected to hear the arguments later this year in a case that could set a new legal precedent in Oklahoma on whether using medical marijuana during pregnancy is a crime — and potentially opening the door for more criminal cases. [The Frontier]
  • Republican Erick Harris Elected to Edmond House Seat in Special Election: Harris is a small business attorney and former assistant attorney general who serves on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections board. He also is a former adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Voice]
  • GOP Members Choose Sen. Greg McCortney as President Pro Tempore Designee: Despite Monday’s results, McCortney faces a lengthy road to leading the Senate. More than a dozen Senate races are either open or feature challenges to incumbent Republicans during the 2024 election cycle, filing for which is set for April. [NonDoc]

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