Ranked Choice Voting

Posted on August 16, 2020

No matter what part of the political spectrum represents you, implementing Ranked Choice Voting would be a positive addition to our democracy. I’m here to explain it so that you understand it well enough to spread the word about it.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is an alternate method for voting. I think examples are the best way to learn, so here’s an example:

No alt text provided for this image
No alt text provided for this image

If A hadn’t yet won a majority, the next lowest candidate would be eliminated and their ballots redistributed. This guarantees that one will be left with a majority in a race with any number of candidates.

What are the main arguments for RCV?

America’s current system often results in vote-splitting.

This happens when a third-party candidate “steals” votes from a main candidate, which can ultimately result in an opposing candidate winning the election without a true majority. RCV solves this problem – no candidate can win without a majority.

In the same vein, RCV incentivizes better representation.

Because there isn’t a chance of a voter “wasting their vote” by voting for a third party, third party candidates in an RCV system are more likely to run for election. This allows voters to vote on the issues they actually care about; if their fringe candidate won’t win, they can always put a surer choice as the second preference.

Political races in an RCV system are less aggressive.

As in my example above, races can be won with second-preference votes. Candidates are incentivized to avoid running political attack ads; you may end up alienating potential second-preference supporters who prefer the candidate you’re attacking.

RCV reduces costs.

Currently, voters in US elections have to travel to polling locations twice, for both primaries and final elections. These two voting days include the hard costs of staffing, setup, and administration, as well as the indirect costs of voters taking the time out of their day to travel to the polling locations. By reducing all voting decisions into one contingent ballot, only one day for voting is needed.

What are the main arguments against RCV?

RCV can be difficult to understand.

The process is currently unfamiliar to the general American public, and unfamiliar processes result in friction. Although RCV may seem complicated at first, with adequate instructions and enough information, I believe the process becomes quite comprehendible.

RCV requires that voters know about the positions of a larger number of candidates.

It takes time and effort to learn about the views of more candidates. This could cause some voters to be alienated by the process in general. Having a more educated electorate is never a bad thing, but requiring too much of some voters may result in lower turnouts.

Limiting attack ads can be a bad thing.

Political attack ads are annoying, repetitive, and sometimes unfounded. However, by removing the incentives to investigate opposing candidates, some of their negative attributes may not be uncovered.

RCV will make our democracy better.

By increasing representation, diversifying the candidates, and reducing the costs of our election process, Ranked Choice Voting provides a reasonable way to improve the function of our democracy. I hope you understand RCV better than you previously did, and I hope you’re as excited about the idea as I am.

If you think of any arguments either for or against RCV, let me know. I’m always interested in engaging with more viewpoints, even if they are opposed to my own. If this article was significant to you, consider sharing the idea of RCV with your friends and family. Information is key for unlocking the true fairness of our democracy, and the spread of that information starts with you. Thanks for reading!

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  1. I recently attended a Zoom meeting of the Minnesota Futurists. They spoke about various problems with American politics during their 30-minute open discussion. After conversation on the topic had wound down, one of them said: “of course, if we had ranked choice voting, it would solve all of this”. The group laughed together for a moment, then moved on.

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