The more than 18,000 Ann Arborites who voted in November overwhelmingly approved four amendments to the city charter–and set a new turnout record for an off-year election.

Two amendments simply bring the charter up to date with current policy. But Proposal A will give the city wider discretion in choosing contractors, and Proposal B would enable ranked-choice voting–if and when Lansing allows it.

Prop A, “best value purchasing,” will let the city consider factors like a company’s location and the wages it pays when awarding contracts. A coalition of unions spent $35,000 promoting the measures, says Laborers’ Union state advocacy director Robert Joerg, because “we want people that are from Washtenaw County working on Ann Arbor city projects.”

Councilmembers Jen Eyer and Travis Radina, who cosponsored the proposal, are now working with staff to rewrite the city’s contracting guidelines. “We didn’t want the entire construction season next year to go by under the old rules,” says Eyer.

Prop B would let voters rank multiple candidates in order of preference. Though it’s not currently permitted under state law, council cosponsor Lisa Disch hopes it will pressure Lansing to reconsider. “The more public support builds–the more we make it politically costly for them not to approve it–the better off we are,” she says.

Prop B also got a big boost from outside money: $25,000 from Rank MI Vote, a chapter of the national group Unite America. Executive director Ron Zimmerman agrees there’s “zero” chance the current legislature will change the law based on Ann Arbor’s votes, but he hopes we’ll have reinforcements soon: he says their plan is to get a “half-dozen cities or so” to approve ranked-choice voting, “and then we’ll start thinking about taking it statewide.”

from January 2022, Calls and Letters

Our December Up Front on the campaign to adopt ranked-choice voting described its biggest financial backer, Rank MI Vote, as a chapter of the national group Unite America. In fact, emails Pat Zabawa, the group’s communications director, it is “an independent entity organized in Michigan as a ballot question committee and with a board of directors of Michigan residents, of which I am one. We did get a $25k grant from Unite America.

“Separately, there’s also some progress on legalizing ranked choice voting!” Zabawa added that Democratic state representatives have introduced legislation to permit it.