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By Alexi Cohan

June 12, 2024

This July 2022 photo shows a person completing a ballot in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting. Mark Thiessen / AP

The head of the Boston City Council is making a push for ranked choice voting, which lets voters rank their favorite candidates instead of choosing between two.

Council President Ruthzee Louijeune on Wednesday proposed a home rule petition for ranked choice voting, saying it increases civic engagement, voter turnout and candidate diversity while allowing residents to vote for their top choices without fear of throwing a vote away.

“Adopting ranked choice voting means embracing a method that fosters greater engagement and reduces polarization,” Louijeune said.

Under the petition, Boston would move from a “top two” system to a “top four” system. That means four candidates would advance from the primary instead of two. Voters would rank up to four candidates on their ballot for all general elections for mayor and city council.

“Every voter can support their favorite candidate without fear of inadvertently aiding their least preferred candidate. This empowerment is crucial in a democracy,” Louijeune said.

Several cities and towns across the country already use ranked choice voting, including Cambridge and New York City. Maine became the first state to utilize the system for its general election after voters approved it in 2016.

A 2020 ballot question on ranked choice voting in Massachusetts failed with 55% of people voting no — but within Boston, 62% of people voted in favor of the measure.

The petition now before Boston City Council is co-sponsored by Councilors Julia Mejia and Henry Santana. It is bolstered by the coalition Ranked Choice Boston.

Councilor Ed Flynn said he opposed the measure, calling it confusing and challenging.

“I’m also concerned about the level of outside influence that would have on this process in terms of financing campaigns,” Flynn said.

The City Council will hold working sessions to discuss the proposal. Councilors, along with support from Mayor Michelle Wu, would then need to vote on the home rule petition. If it passes City Council, the proposal goes to the state Legislature. If it is approved by the Legislature, it will likely require a referendum by Boston voters before taking effect.

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