Our current system:
Currently elected county offices are filled using a "top two jungle primary" system involving a primary election in the spring and a general election in November. The election is non-partisan and no party labels show up on the ballot, so Democrats might be running against Democrats and Republicans running against Republicans.
If a candidate gets a majority in the primary (50%+1 of the votes), that is the only candidate who appears on the November ballot -- even though many more voters show up for the November election. If no candidate gets a majority in the primary, the two candidates with the most votes go to the November ballot -- even though each of them got only a minority of the total vote in the primary.
In the November election voters are given the choice of only the one or two candidates who made it through the spring primary.
How STAR Voting would work:
STAR stands for "Score Then Automatic Runoff," and also refers to the fact that voters can score any or all candidates on a scale of 0 to 5 (0 for no support and 5 for the most support) similar to giving star ratings to a movie or restaurant.
With STAR Voting there is no need for a primary election, so voters would vote only once, in November. This makes for a shorter campaign season focused on the summer and fall when people are paying more attention. It also makes it easier for candidates who don't have big donors to run a viable campaign.
The ballot would still be nonpartisan, but instead of being limited to picking just one candidate, you can give a score to any or all candidates -- even giving the same score to two or more candidates you prefer equally. (Giving no score is counted as a zero.)
When the ballots are counted two things determine the winner. First the scores for each candidate are added up across all of the ballots, and the two candidates with the highest total scores become "finalists." This shows they have relatively high and broad support from the voters. Second, the same ballots are used to determine which of those two finalist candidates was preferred by the most voters -- a simple majority vote with each ballot counting for one vote, with your vote going to the finalist you gave a higher score to.
Summary of main benefits:
- No primary election, making it easier on candidates and more convenient for voters
- More expressive voting: voters can express their level of support for any or all candidates
- Fair to all candidates, with money being less of a factor
- Produces a winner with broad support
Mock-up of Completed Ballot
This shows what a filled-out ballot might look like. The voter has chosen to give scores to all of the candidates, giving the highest score to Bianca, equal scores to Able and Frank, a middle score to Desi and low score to Edith.