“VOTE FOR no more than one.” Those are the instructions on the ballot in the District’s June 2 Democratic primary for the Ward 2 seat on the D.C. Council. If ever there were an election that needed ranked-choice voting (which allows voters to list candidates in order of preference rather than vote for just one), it is this closely watched race in which the crowded field could help former D.C. Council member Jack Evans regain the seat.

Mr. Evans, who represented Ward 2 for 28 years, resigned from the council in January amid an ethics scandal in which his colleagues were poised to expel him. Mr. Evans has apologized and is asking for a second chance by stressing his financial bona fides. It is clear, though, that what could most advantage him is the crowded field in which the seven people running against him would split the vote and he could squeak through with a simple plurality. Put another way, he could win and it wouldn’t matter that a majority of voters voted against him. (We believe Ward 2 needs a fresh start and have endorsed Brooke Pinto, a former assistant D.C. attorney general.)

A better system — one that empowers voters — is ranked-choice voting, which has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Under the system, if a candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, the winner is decided based on votes garnered as the second, third or even fourth choice of voters. More than 20 cities successfully use this system, Maine has extended it to the upcoming presidential election, and four state Democratic parties are using it in their party-run presidential primaries. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recently signed two bills that authorize its use in Arlington and offer it as a local option across the state. Ranked-choice voting legislation had been introduced in both D.C. and Maryland but has yet to make it out of committee.

As Ward 2 voters weigh their decision, there is the inevitable calculation being made. Do you vote for the candidate who you think will do the best job even if you are worried about his or chances to win? Ranked-choice voting liberates voters from thinking they have to make that choice. It is an issue that lawmakers in Maryland and the District would do well to revisit.

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