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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Instead of voting for just one candidate on the ballot, Missouri voters may soon have a new process that allows them to rank them in order of preference. 

The goal of the Better Elections Amendment is to give voters more choices and to stop the dirty politics in campaigns. If approved by voters, the referendum would take away Republican and Democrat ballots and instead allow individuals to rank their top choices from one to four, requiring a candidate to receive more than 50% of the vote to win. 

“The politics are toxic in that building right now,” Scott Charton, spokesperson for the Better Elections campaign, said as he pointed to the Missouri State Capitol. “This type of instant runoff and open primary voting cites around the country have used it for a long time. This type of voting has been around for over a century.”

Charton said Alaska and Maine both use a similar process for their statewide elections. How the amendment would work, Missouri primaries for statewide and congressional elections would allow voters to rank their top four choices on the ballot. 

“Instantly we can find out who can get a majority of affirmative votes,” Charton said. “It’s very positive. We’re not toxically attacking people.”

The top four vote-getters in the primary elections would go to an instant runoff on the November ballot. Since there wouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat ballot during the primary, a voter could choose a Republican candidate for the Missouri Senate and a Democrat candidate for the House. 

“Over the last 20 years, there have often been primaries where one or two of the major parties haven’t put up a candidate,” Charton said. “It’s only new to Missouri because we’re so used to a primary where the government tells you, you can only vote for a certain set of people.”

“By being chosen by more people means you need to campaign for every vote,” Charton said, “Voters who get ignored, now, you have to pay attention too.”

Under the current state statute, candidates don’t have to receive 50% of the vote to win an election. If the referendum makes it on the November ballot and is approved, the process repeats until one nominee is left with more than 50.1% of the votes. 

“If you’re a top contender, or the top preference gets eliminated or finished fourth in that field, they would drop off and your second-choice vote gets reassigned to your next choice,” Charton said. “There is an incentive not to go out and sling mud and attack the other candidates who supporters you might turn off.”

Charton said the campaign has heard from voters across the state that is tired of the vicious attacks on other candidates. 

If approved later this year, changes on the ballot wouldn’t take effect until November 2024. Charton said this would not affect presidential elections, but it would increase election security. 

“We provide and require that there would be a paper trail on your vote when you vote, that’s just sensible,” Charton said. “We’re requiring that voting machines be checked before they are used.”

The referendum also requires special elections to be held if there’s a vacancy in a statewide office. 

“Right now, politicians get to make the pick or set the dates for elections,” Charton said. “If there is a vacancy in an office, there has to be an election for that, a special election.”

Currently, there are six vacancies in the Missouri House, meaning the Republicans do not have the supermajority. When asked Parson said he has no plans to call a special election.

Voters wouldn’t be required to rank four candidates if they don’t want to.

Changing the ballots to rank-choice voting is expected to cost state and local governments between $2.7 million and $5.2 million in one-time costs and roughly $27,000 annually. For primary elections, it could cost up to $170,000 and $152,000 for each general election. 

Organizers like Charton have until May 8 to get the required signatures needed to put the question on the November ballot. To find more information or to sign the petition, visit: https://betterelectionsmo.org/