Eugene, Oregon, to vote on STAR voting initiative at May primary election

Voters in Eugene, Oregon, will decide on an initiative to adopt a new electoral system, STAR voting, on May 21, 2024. STAR is an acronym for Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff.

If approved, Eugene, Oregon, would be the first jurisdiction to adopt STAR voting.

In 2018, voters in Lane County, Oregon, which includes Eugene, defeated Measure 20-290, which would have adopted STAR voting for county officers. Measure 20-290 was defeated with 47.60% voting ‘Yes’ and 52.40% voting ‘No’. Sara Wolk, the chief petitioner for next year’s ballot initiative, said while Measure 20-290 was defeated countywide, the measure won a majority of votes within Eugene.

For next year’s initiative, supporters collected 14,430 signatures, of which 10,040 signatures were deemed valid by city officials. At least 9,689 signatures needed to be valid.

Here’s how STAR voting would work:

There would be no primaries. Rather, candidates would run on the same ballot. Voters would score each candidate on a scale of zero to five. The idea is that if a voter doesn’t have any preference for a candidate, they could give that candidate a score of zero. If the voter has a strong preference for a candidate, they could give that candidate a score of five. A voter could give multiple candidates the same scores.

Scores are then tabulated. In an election with three voters, for example, a candidate could receive a five, three, and zero, equaling a score of eight. Another candidate could receive a score of three, three, and three, equaling a score of nine. This tabulation would occur for each candidate. The two candidates with the highest scores are known as finalists and enter an automatic runoff.

During the automatic runoff, a voter’s ballot counts as one vote for the finalist that the voter scored higher. If a voter gave the two finalists a score of three and two, respectively, the vote would go to the candidate whom the voter scored with a three. If the voter gave the two finalists the same score, the voter’s ballot would be counted as a vote of no preference between the two finalists.