Portland City Council adopts new election system that will lead to vigorous voter education campaign

Press Release
Oregon was the first state to establish vote-by-mail elections in 1998; now Portland becomes Oregon’s third jurisdiction to conduct elections using ranked-choice voting beginning in November 2024. 
Published

Portland, Ore. – Today, April 19, 2023, Portland City Council formally voted to implement several new election rules when Portlanders cast their ballot for the November 2024 election.  The council vote certifies ranked-choice voting for Portland’s candidate election contests beginning in November 2024. Wednesday’s unanimous council vote was required to formalize ranked-choice voting and other city election code updates. 

Last week, City officials, the Multnomah County Elections Director, and Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center (a national expert on ranked-choice voting), joined Portlanders for public testimony that led to the adoption of the new Code Chapter 2.08 - Election of Candidates

The most significant changes are the: 

  • Elimination of the primary election for candidates.  

  • Elimination of special elections to fill council vacancies. 

  • Implementation of ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, the auditor and 12 city councilor positions, with three per each new geographic district. 

City of Portland’s Interim Elections Officer, Becky Lamboley, stated, "We are eager to deliver on the changes approved by voters to our election system and grateful for a strong partnership between local and national experts to implement them in advance of the November 2024 election.” 

Today’s historic vote also marks the start of a robust voter education campaign to ensure that voters understand the new election methods and how to fill out their ballot.   

Portland will become the third jurisdiction in Oregon to implement ranked-choice voting, following Benton County, which adopted ranked-choice voting in 2016 and implemented it for the 2020 election and Corvallis, which adopted and used ranked-choice voting in the 2022 election. Nearby cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland currently use ranked-choice voting.  

“The League of Women Voters of Portland supports the election code prepared in a comprehensive team effort by attorneys and election officials from Multnomah County and the City of Portland,” said Debbie Kaye, President, League of Women Voters of Portland. “It draws on ranked-choice voting election data research from across the country and is reinforced by testimony from Portlanders over the past month.” 

Portland’s new elections method eliminates the primary, allowing our elected officials to be selected in the November election where the most voters participate.  

Currently, special elections can be called to fill a vacancy for council members. Moving forward, any council vacancies will be filled by remaining council members holding a vote, or in the next general election.​ Special elections can still be called for ballot measures, just not for candidate elections.  

Portland’s first election using ranked-choice voting 

This is what the voting experience will look like for Portland voters:  

  • Voters will receive a ballot in the mail like usual.  
  • The ballot will have a new grid design to allow for the ranking process.
  • Voters will prioritize (or rank) their top six candidates for each contest on the ballot. Voters may rank fewer candidates if they prefer.
  • Voters will return their ballots in the mail or at Official Ballot Drop Sites, as usual.  

Details about additional election guidelines can be found on our website FAQ.  

Multnomah County’s role to update the election system for ranked-choice voting 

​In Oregon, counties are tasked with preparing ballots and conducting elections. ​For ranked-choice voting, the Multnomah County Elections Office anticipates a grid-style ballot design.  

​Multnomah County will manage three elements of the election system that are changing, including: the voting system software, the ballot design, and the reporting of election results. The County publishes unofficial election results and updates beginning on Election Night. 

Ranked-choice voting will also require tabulation of vote data from all three counties where City of Portland voters reside: Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington. Multnomah County is not only coordinating with the City of Portland, but also with Washington and Clackamas Counties, and the Secretary of State’s Office regarding results reporting, as well as ballot design. 

​Multnomah County will continue to use certified voting system software from a third-party vendor to design and tabulate ballots. ​Multnomah County Elections is working with its vendor, Clear Ballot, to update the software to meet the City’s ranked-choice voting specifications as well as certification standards that meet federal and state standards prior to the November 2024 election. ​ 

Nonprofits and private firms have until May 3 to submit proposals to lead Portland’s voter education campaign  

The City of Portland is seeking proposals from qualified individuals, teams, organizations, or firms to create and coordinate a citywide voter education, partnership, and outreach plan. The focus is on hard-to-reach voters. 

The plan will work to implement and align community efforts to educate Portlanders about ranked-choice voting and district-based elections ahead of the November general 2024 election. The plan also includes managing sub-grants to community partners who will administer voter education and outreach. The total RFP value is approximately $675,000.  

Proposals are due on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. For more information, find the RFP by using the keywords “voter education” on the City’s BuySpeed page. 

Charter Transition Resources