Mayor Tim Kelly signals support for ranked-choice voting system

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Newly elected Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly was inaugurated hMonday, outlining his agenda for his 100 days in office.

Due to the runoff election, Kelly only had six days before he was set to take office.

Now, Kelly says he hopes to prevent that short turnaround for future administrations by introducing a ballot measure that would eliminate the need for runoff elections by adopting a ranked-choice voting system.

UTC Assistant Political Science Professor Chris Acuff broke down what exactly a ranked choice voting system is.

“In general, ranked choice voting essentially means that instead of having a runoff, if nobody gets more 50 percent of the vote, that those who finish last place – their second place vote would then be reallocated basically up the ticket until somebody achieves over 50 percent of the vote,” says Acuff.

However, he says Kelly wouldn’t be able to adopt the voting system as per state law, and the only workable solution would be changing the dates of the runoff or delaying the mayor’s inauguration.

“The state has essentially said that ranked choice voting as it stands right now conflicts with the state constitution and state law. Barring the change in state law that would allow for it, is then City Council and the Mayor may want to look at potentially changing the dates of the runoff or when the next mayor or council takes office.”

When asked about his thoughts on such a measure, City Councilman Chip Henderson said he could be open to the idea.

“Like any other legislation I would certainly want to see what the legislation says. A mayor has to get their entire staff together, in this case in about six days. So I understand the efficiency and I guess better planning if you had a month to do that. I’d certainly be open to the idea,” Henderson said.

But even if the ranked-choice system doesn’t catch on, Kelly has advocated for other reforms, such as shortening the current six-week runoff period to three weeks.

When asked to comment, Kelly’s team said he would working closely with City Council and would announce more in the coming days.

 

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