Betty Bear eked it out.
The ursine winner of the city of Santa Fe's ranked-choice mock election came from behind in the final round, defeating Lucinda Lizard and putting an end to a voter-education effort that was, if the 92 total votes are any indication, largely ignored.
It wasn't useless, though. Wednesday night, city councilors told Santa Fe City Attorney Kelly Brennan they'd like to see results of the five-way mayor's race and three contested council seats right away on election night, rather than watch the balloting unfold with an artificial delay.
That's different than the way the results of the mock election were released, with a video explanation of the round-by-round totals and a detailed tally of which candidates were eliminated and how their votes were redistributed. It was an educational exercise, of course, but it came with the added drama of watching the whole thing play out.
In the first instance—think of it as the equivalent of the "big reveal" on a home remodeling show— the city clerk would announce the final result of the election, then work her way back through the results to explain how the vote played out, round by round.
The second version, as seen in the mock election, would have a more dramatic flair. The clerk would reveal the results round by round, eliminating a candidate from each race until the city has decided its mayoral and City Council races.
In the non-animal world of actual voting, which began with in-person absentee balloting on Tuesday, the algorithm designed by Dominion Voting Systems will be able to determine the winner in a matter of minutes. Any stop to the vote counting, Brennan explained, would be purely for the purpose of slowing down and explaining the results. It might also serve the purpose of injecting a little extra drama.
Her request for guidance on how to report the final outcome of the controversial new voting method was met with a long moment of silence.
"Don't all talk at once," she kidded.
Councilor Peter Ives, one of three district representatives running in the five-candidate field for mayor, was first to weigh in. "The system is described as instant runoff, so I suppose from my perspective, I think it makes sense, given that it has that feature and was put in place with that intention, that one would announce the winner and then go back and analyze results as you care to."
Brennan told Councilor Signe Lindell, who is running against lone challenger Marie Campos in a race that doesn't need ranked-choice voting, that it might take 10-15 minutes for the software to run the results for every race. After the meeting, City Clerk Yolanda Vigil was a bit more cautious and told SFR she plans to check that time frame with Dominion experts later this week. Three candidates each are vying for the District 3 and 4 seats.
Like Ives, Lindell came down on the side of finding out the winner first and doing the electoral archaeology later.
In fact, only Councilor Mike Harris, whose seat is not up for re-election for another two years, entertained the idea of slowing things down after a hard-fought election that will decide at least three new city councilors and the city's first full-time mayor.
"Actually, I've thought about this and how it was going to be reported," Harris said, smiling as his colleagues looked on. Given the novelty of ranked-choice voting, he wondered, as well as the work that's been put in to explain both how to vote and how results will be counted, and given the interest in the election itself, might it be wise to show the public how it was all playing out first?
While his gut reaction was to slow it down, Harris told the council he wasn't attached to the idea and understood the desire for an immediate result.
The night won't be devoid of early drama, however. In a change from years past, Vigil said final vote totals won't be posted at each of the polling places. Only the results of the first round will be printed and taped to the window. The more advanced tabulation will take place at City Hall.
That means campaigns will know within minutes if anyone has won the election outright or, in the alternative, who is the first candidate to be eliminated in the brave new world of ranked-choice voting.
The last day to register to vote is less than a week away, Feb. 6. While just 63 absentee ballots have been cast so far in a slow start to the voting, the new system will likely have plenty of votes to crunch on Election Night.