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Eugene will not put new voting system on the ballot in November

The Eugene City Council narrowly voted down a proposal Monday night which would have paved the way for a brand-new type of voting system in the city.

Posted: Jul 28, 2020 7:44 AM
Updated: Jul 28, 2020 10:41 AM

EUGENE, Ore. – The Eugene City Council narrowly voted down a proposal Monday night which would have paved the way for a brand-new type of voting system in the city.

STAR voting, which stands for Score, Then Automatic Runoff was created in 2014 during a conference at the University of Oregon. The Equal Vote Coalition has been advocating for the system ever since, saying it boost equality in the voting process and combats hyper partisanship.  

The organization says the current primary system results in voters being “encouraged to choose the Lesser Evil rather than a longshot we might really like, and all but two polarizing candidates are discouraged from running for office.”

STAR voting gets around this by having voters rate each candidate with a score card, and then having a runoff between the top two choices.

Instead of a May primary for mayor and city councilor, the candidates would be voted on at the November general election. Voters would be given a ratings ballot, on which each voter rates every candidate from 0 to 5. The scores for each candidate would then be totaled, and the two highest-rated candidates selected as finalists. In the instant-runoff, the finalist who was given a higher rating on a greater number of ballots is elected to office.

But some councilors raised concerned, including Councilor Jennifer Yeh, who represents Ward 4.

“While there are parts of it I find very intriguing, I do have concerns and we have not taken the time to vet the system,” Yeh said before the vote. “Changing our entire voting system is a large step.”

Other councilors raised concerns about the cost of implementing a new system. The exact cost would be difficult to calculate for Lane County Elections, which administers city elections, but there is an estimated upfront cost of $200,000 in addition to expenses incurred for each election.

The proposal to place a charter amendment that elects the Mayor and City Councilors using the STAR method on the November 2020 ballot was defeated in a 5-4 vote. 

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