MADISON — Ranked choice voting could be coming to Wisconsin, and it would implement serious changes to how the U.S. Senate and Representatives are chosen. Rep. Ron Tusler (R- Harrison) is the lead author of the bill, and says he introduced it to change the incentives behind why candidates run for office.
“Both Republicans and Democrats [in Madison] are frustrated with Washington. It doesn’t seem like the things they are doing are the things we’ve asked them to do,” Rep. Tusler explained. “Final Five would give Wisconsin a new opportunity to focus our federal players on what we really want them to do.”
Here is what the Final Five Voting bill would do:
- In primary elections, there would no longer be a Republican or Democrat ballot. Voters would use one ballot with every candidate.
- The five candidates for the U.S. House and Senate with the most support would move on to the general election.
- In the general election, voters would rank the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with over 50% of the first-place votes wins.
- In the event no candidate meets the threshold immediately, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated.
- Those second-place votes would then be accounted for, until a candidate gets over half. Tusler called this an ‘instant runoff’.
This system of voting would only be applied to federal elections, meaning the County Clerk’s office would have to use two different methods of counting votes simultaneously. Milwaukee County Clerk George Christensen said he does not have a concrete opinion on the bill but expressed interest in it.
“I think it’s worth considering, especially if it would give a better voice to our citizens,” Christensen said. “Logistically speaking it would require further research to determine how it would affect our offices.
“The ballot would have to be redesigned, that would take some time. There would probably be a tremendous amount of voter education that would take place on how they rank candidates and what that means We would have to make sure the machines are programmed correctly. And it might take longer to tally results with the elimination process.”
Rep. Tusler said they would consider implementing Final Five Voting for statewide positions if the current version passes and works well.
The bill is still going before committees, and Rep. Tusler says he feels confident about its future since the current version of the bill has bipartisan support.
Among the legislators throwing their support behind it is Rep. Daniel Reimer (D-Milwaukee). Rep. Reimer was unavailable for an interview, but stated in a joint memo to other members of the State Assembly:
“…we are ready to work side by side to advance this legislation and help make our federal elections better serve Wisconsinites.”
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