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CT attorney general kills ranked-choice voting

Molly Ingram
Attorney General William Tong.

Attorney General William Tong has issued a formal opinion that ranked-choice voting at the state level would not be supported by Connecticut's constitution.

Ranked-choice voting is a process in which voters rank candidates by preference. After votes are totaled, the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. Ballots that listed the eliminated candidate as their first choice are recounted, with the second choice becoming the first. The process is repeated until there is a winner.

It’s already used in places like Alaska, Maine and New York City.

“Connecticut cannot implement it in violation of the state constitution,” Tong wrote in his formal opinion. “Our state has never used ranked-choice voting; our constitution does not mention it; and I found no evidence that the framers of our constitution intended to authorize it.”

State Representative Josh Elliott (D- Hamden) has asked the state’s lawmakers to consider ranked-choice voting for presidential primaries and municipal elections since 2017.

He said Tong’s decision was disappointing, but not directly related to what he wants — the decision referenced constitutional offices like governor and secretary of the state, not municipal or national elections.

“Because we're starting with the allowance of getting rank choice voting, getting the foot in the door, this gives people the opportunity to see what rank choice voting is,” Eliott said. “And then if it is determined that later down the line that people really liked rank choice, and they want to see it implemented for other elections, then we can look towards changing the constitution.”

Elliott said this session, he's focused on passing legislation to convene a task force or working group to determine the feasibility of ranked-choice in Connecticut.

He said the state constitution could be amended in the future to allow ranked-choice — but that would be a ways away.

“Keeping ideas alive is one of the most important things that we do,” Elliott said. “We never know when lightning strikes, and so as long as we keep on talking about rank choice, and people continue becoming familiarized with the concept, that, to me, is my goal as a legislator. Getting it into law, of course, that's the final destination, but it takes a while to get these things done.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.