Multnomah County formalizes ranked choice voting intergovernmental agreement with Washington and Clackamas counties for City of Portland candidate elections

October 6, 2023

Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott (left) and Dan Eisenbeis, a Department of Community Services project manager.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement Thursday, Oct. 5, formalizing processes with Clackamas and Washington counties for the City of Portland’s November 2024 election, the first in which candidates will be elected through ranked choice voting. 

Portland voters approved city charter amendments in the November 2022 election to require the use of ranked choice voting to elect City officers, including the mayor, auditor and city councilor, beginning in the November 2024 General Election, Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott told the Board. 

And in April, Portland City Council adopted amendments to its City Elections Code implementing ranked choice voting.

While the majority of City of Portland voters — 99.6% — live in Multnomah County, a small percentage of voters live in Clackamas and Washington counties. The Board’s approval of the intergovernmental agreement, or IGA, establishes processes that will help ensure public resources and technology are utilized efficiently across all three counties.

The City of Portland is the first multi-county jurisdiction in Oregon to adopt the use of ranked choice voting. 

“This is notable because the round-by-round tabulation of ranked choice voting results requires central tabulation of all ballot data," said Scott. “In other words, tabulation requires knowledge of how the candidate rankings are marked on every ballot that was cast.”

None of the three counties currently employ voting system software that is capable of designing, scanning and tabulating ballots for a ranked choice voting election. The Multnomah County Elections Division is working with its voting system software vendor to add ranked choice voting capabilities in time to use for Portland candidate contests in the 2024 election. 

The approved agreement sets the stage for Multnomah County to assist Clackamas and Washington counties with certain technological functions during City of Portland candidate contests using ranked choice voting. There would be no financial impact to Multnomah County to provide this assistance to other counties, optimizing the return on investment to the public.

Dan Eisenbeis, a Department of Community Services project manager, told the Board that Multnomah County would serve as the central tabulator during the administration of ranked choice voting, allowing the other counties to leverage Multnomah County’s voting system software.

However, each county would be responsible for verifying the timely receipt of its ballots, resolving signature concerns and securely transporting its ballots to Multnomah County. The ballots will be retrieved and archived after the results are certified.

The IGA is also designed to accommodate a future scenario in which either or both Clackamas County and Washington County want to design and scan ranked choice voting ballots for its own voters, then securely transfer an electronic record of how their ballots are marked (known as a “cast vote record”) to Multnomah County for central tabulation, rather than transferring physical ballots. 

The implementation of ranked choice voting for the City of Portland in November 2024 sets the stage for the administration of ranked choice voting for Multnomah County candidate elections in the 2026 general election,” explained Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson.

“It is more complicated not just when you’re talking about a new form of voting, but also when there’s a lot of different jurisdictions. November 2024 is right around the corner and this is a very good first step,” said Vega Pederson.

“I think it’s important to ensure all of our systems are working together and specifically how this transition is happening.”