A person in a red hoodie votes at a empty polling station.
A voting scene on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 at Hartford Public Library. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

In wide-ranging remarks at his second inauguration last week, Gov. Ned Lamont suggested state leaders consider an alternative voting system that’s gained popularity in recent years.

Addressing Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, Lamont suggested they collectively “think a little bit about [ranked] choice voting,” noting that the voting system could help to “take some of the sting out of politics and bring some of the decency back to public service.”

Ranked-choice voting, where voters rank candidates according to preference rather than voting for a single one, reduces the chances of “wasted” votes and encourages campaigning, supporters say. Three states, Alaska, Maine and New York, employ ranked-choice voting in some races, and dozens of other local jurisdictions have adopted the system for elections.

In Connecticut, efforts to adopt ranked-choice voting have been largely pushed by the Griebel-Frank for CT party, named for former gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel and his running mate Monte Frank. Griebel successfully petitioned his way onto the 2018 ballot for governor. In that race, Lamont beat Republican Bob Stefanowski by about 44,000 votes. Griebel got about 54,000 votes.

Griebel died in 2020.

The Griebel-Frank party endorsed Lamont’s bid for reelection after he pledged to propose legislation that would authorize ranked-choice voting for federal races and give municipalities the option in local elections. A state constitutional amendment would be required to allow ranked-choice voting in elections for state offices. 

[RELATED: Minor party endorses Lamont after a pledge for election reform]

Frank, the chair of Griebel-Frank for Connecticut, said the party will be pushing legislation for ranked-choice voting this session. 

The Griebel-Frank party, among other groups including CT Voters First and Voter Choice CT, have supported ranked-choice voting legislation, but it’s unclear whether the legislature will make it a priority this session — even with encouragement from the governor.

Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, who is serving as House Chair of the Government Administration and House Elections Committee, said he believes ranked-choice voting will be discussed.

“We presume that, based on what the governor has said, that he’ll most likely be sending us a governor’s bill on the subject,” Blumenthal said. 

House Assistant Majority Leader David Michel, D-Stamford, has filed a bill that would allow municipalities to allow ranked-choice voting. 

The bill, House Bill 5133, was referred to the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections on Tuesday. 

Joseph A. Coll, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Sewanee: The University of the South who has published a number of scholarly articles examining ranked-choice voting, said the process can be more complicated but not prohibitively so.

“Research does tend to suggest that individuals find [ranked-choice voting] slightly more difficult than plurality voting, but not by large margins,” Coll said. 

Coll said that only a handful of cities in the United States have implemented ranked-choice voting, so there is still research to be done on how it would affect U.S. elections. 

“I’m committed to ensuring that our elections work and that they work well,” Blumenthal said. “Any action we take related to ranked-choice voting will be in accordance with those values.”

In New York, ranked-choice voting has been criticized since its inception. 

After New York City passed ranked-choice voting legislation in 2019, many officials ended up regretting it after they say it deterred voters, especially those from communities of color, from going to the polls.

Jessica is CT Mirror's Emma Bowen Foundation general assignment reporter for the 2022 / 2023 academic year. She is currently a senior at Central Connecticut State University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She also works at her school’s newspaper, The Recorder, and peer mentored first-year undergraduates at Central. Jessica is a Connecticut native through and through.