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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

What is Ranked-Choice Voting? How Does It Work?

             Millions of Americans are concerned about election integrity and believe that changes need to be made in the voting process. One of the ideas being proposed is ranked-choice voting. Proponents of ranked-choice voting like the idea of having a second choice in an election if their first-choice candidate fails to win enough votes.

            According to Fred Lucas at The Heritage Foundation, “More than 30 bills on ranked-choice voting have been proposed in state legislatures across the country.” The information comes from Fair Vote, “the nonprofit group that is promoting the system nationally.” Lucas explained how ranked-choice voting works. 

Ranked-choice voting is a system that allows voters to rank a first, second, and third choice, or more. A voter casting a ranked-choice ballot, for example, might select three candidates in order of preference out of six candidates for a congressional seat.

Proponents say ranked-choice voting is a moderating force and superior because it means voters don’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. Opponents say the system is problematic because it is confusing to voters and can lead to outcomes where the candidate winning the most votes loses the election.

            Lucas stated that the promotion of ranked-choice voting is being “financed by a liberal donor who is the daughter-in-law of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.” This statement is a red flag to conservatives. Lucas claimed that there are nine things that voters should know about ranked-choice voting.

1. Who’s Bankrolling These Efforts?

Much of the funding for projects to persuade states and localities to adopt ranked-choice voting has come from outside the states.

Kathryn Murdoch spent $500,000 through the group Unite America to convince Alaska voters to say yes to the initiative on the November ballot….

Unite America, a Colorado-based nonprofit bankrolling promotion of ranked-choice voting, contributed $600,000 to the Alaska effort, according to Alaska Public Media….

2. What States and Other Jurisdictions Might Adopt It?

A bipartisan bill in Georgia – a decisive state in the 2020 presidential election – would allow ranked-choice for military and overseas ballots, since Georgia already is a runoff state….

In Oregon, state lawmakers introduced bills to expand ranked-choice voting statewide, after it made a debut in Benton County in November’s election for local offices.

The group Better Ballot Alabama is pushing the system for statewide elections in Alabama.

3. How Does It Work?

Ranked-choice voting differs somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically works like this, whether in a crowded primary election field or a multiparty general election:

·         All candidates for a given office appear on the ballot. Voters – instead of choosing only one candidate – rank each candidate from “1” to “2” to “3” and so on.

·         If one candidate wins 50% or more of the first-preference votes, the election is over.

·         If no one wins the first tally, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and officials make another tally of votes for the remaining candidates.

·         Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their vote counted for their second preference in this next round.

·         Counting continues, perhaps with one or more other candidates eliminated, until one candidate eventually emerges with a majority of votes.

In such systems, a voter doesn’t have to rank his choices and may opt to pick just one. However, if a voter doesn’t select and rank multiple candidates, his ballot is more likely to be discarded after the first round of counting….

4. How Often Does It Change Outcome?

The ranked-choice voting system became particularly controversial after Maine’s 2018 election, when Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, ultimately lost his race for reelection to Democrat Jared Golden despite winning a plurality of the first-preference vote….

Not only is ranked-choice voting too complicated, it disenfranchises voters, because ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are cast aside to manufacture a faux majority for the winner. But it is only a majority of the voters remaining in the final round, not a majority of all of the voters who actually cast votes in the elections.

5. What States Use This Method?

Interestingly, Democratic presidential nominating contests in Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming used the ranked-choice voting method in 2020.

These five states did not use it for the general election, however, as primaries and caucuses mostly are run by political parties, while the state is in charge of general elections.

In 2020, Alaska became the second state to adopt the system; Maine was the first state to adopt it, for the 2016 election….

In Alaska, voters narrowly approved ranked-choice voting with 51% of the vote; in Massachusetts, 55% of voters rejected the proposal….

6. What Local Jurisdictions Adopted It?

Voters in six municipalities opted in 2020 either to adopt or expand ranked-choice voting: Albany and Eureka, California; Bloomington and Minnetonka, Minnesota; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Maine.

Beyond that, 20 other municipal and county jurisdictions – including major cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakland, and San Francisco – have adopted ranked-choice voting. The state legislatures of Virginia and Utah adopted the system as local option….

7. Does Ranking Candidates Complicate Voting?

Fair Vote cites a Bangor Daily News survey after the 2018 election in which 75% of respondents said they understood the ranked-choice voting system.

Still, others disagree….


8. How Does It Affect Minority Voters, Candidates?

The ranked-choice voting process has drawn fire from both the left and the right….

9.What Other Countries Use It?

Proponents noted that ranked-choice voting is used by every voter in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

The system also is used in some form in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, according to Fair Vote….

            The ranked-choice voting was on the ballot in Alaska and barely passed. It may not have passed if Alaskan residents had known the above information. I did not vote for it then, and I surely would not vote for it after reading the above information.


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