Colorado Governor Signs Bill To Delay Implementation of Ranked Choice Voting

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill last week that will delay the implementation of ranked choice voting if voters approve it in a November ballot initiative.

This measure is being advanced by Colorado Voters First, a group spearheaded by Kent Thiry, the wealthy former CEO of the Denver-based dialysis giant DaVita.

The group strives to get a ranked choice initiative on the ballot for the 2024 election, and if put on the ballot and approved by voters, they would like the new voting system to be implemented for the 2026 midterm elections, according to their website.

Their proposal is for all candidates to run against each other on the ballot — regardless of political party — and the four with the most votes will move on to the general election. 

Then, in the general election, there will be a ranked choice voting system, where voters rank the candidates on the ballot from one to four. If one candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, they are declared the winner.

If no one wins a majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. People who voted for that candidate as their first choice will have their votes redistributed to their second choice. The tabulation process then continues as rounds until a candidate receives more than 50% of the total vote.

The group said this voting system would reduce polarization, force candidates to appeal to all voters, ensure all voters can cast “meaningful” votes and increase turnout by restoring trust in the election system.

Alaska and Maine use rank choice voting statewide as do some jurisdictions like New York City and San Francisco.

Polis signed an omnibus election bill last week with a last-minute amendment added by Colorado Rep. Emily Sirota (D) that requires multiple Colorado counties to conduct ranked choice voting elections, essentially testing the system out, before the state adopts it for larger races.

The amendment also requires the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to produce a report evaluating the ranked choice voting elections in the counties and present its findings to the legislature. 

Polis released a statement on Thursday saying the election bill helps protect the security of the state’s future contests.

He said he plans to implement any ballot initiative that passes on ranked choice voting and will “establish a formal process” that “fulfills the will of the voters and takes into consideration the needs of election administrators.”

There will be “a goal of implementation as soon as practicable and certainly no later than the 2028 election cycle for full implementation statewide,” he added. 

In a statement to Democracy Docket, Colorado Voters First spokesperson Curtis Hubbard expressed the group’s frustration with Polis.

“We’re disappointed the governor felt compelled to reward lawmakers’ abuse of power, but we know whose side voters are on,” Hubbard said. “We will continue fighting — in the courts, across the state, and at the ballot box — for the rights of any voter to vote in any election and for the citizens’ initiative process.”

Read the bill here.

Read the proposed ballot initiative here.