(LibertySons.org) – Both Alaska and Maine employed ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the 2022 midterms after adopting the system for statewide use in all elections. Yet, more states, counties, and cities are passing legislation to allow voters to use RCV. Some critics warn about the system’s dangers, pushing back against left-wing forces promoting the scheme.
What Is Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)?
RCV is an election system that allows voters to rank candidates for a given office or position by their first choice, second choice, third choice, and so on. Based on voters’ first preferences, a candidate would win if the individual accumulates a majority of votes or 50% plus one. If no candidate garners more than 50% of the first-choice ballots, then electors would eliminate the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes.
Electors would also eliminate all first-preference votes for the eliminated candidate and replace them with those voters’ next choice on their ballots. Electors would recalculate totals to see if any remaining candidate accrued a majority. If not, the process would repeat until one candidate achieved a majority.
For example, three candidates ran in the 2022 Alaska election for US Representative — Nick Begich (R), Sarah Palin (R), and Mary Peltola (D). Based on first-preference votes, the results were
- Mary Peltola, 75,761 votes, 40.2%
- Sarah Palin, 58,945 votes, 31.3%
- Nick Begich, 53,756 votes, 28.5%
Because no candidate achieved a majority, electors eliminated Begich and his first-choice votes and recalculated using Begich voters’ second-preference ballots, yielding the final results of
- Mary Peltola, 91,206 votes, 51.5%
- Sarah Palin, 85,987 votes, 48.5%
In that election, 11,269 voters, or about 20%, opted not to make a second choice — Begich was their only ballot selection.
Pros and Cons
Advocates of the system say it ensures the election of candidates with the broadest base of support, levels the playing field for all candidates, helps eliminate “negative” campaigning, and allows voters to choose their preferred politician without feeling like they might waste their vote. Proponents also argue it could help end gerrymandering and create more competitive elections focused on issues rather than parties.
Critics point out the system is more complex and cumbersome, especially initially, and it can be difficult for voters to understand how to use it and how it generates results, calling election integrity into question. Detractors also pointed out that not all jurisdictions require candidates to win with a 50+% majority but believe voters can make clear-cut decisions through run-off elections rather than depending on the convoluted ranked-choice system, which could cloud results. Finally, skeptics argue that the belief that RCV promotes more electoral inclusivity hasn’t proven true in countries like Australia, where the first-preference majority candidate often wins.
In addition to Alaska and Hawaii, some jurisdictions in 12 other states have implemented RCV, and five more states have adopted legislation to allow RCV but haven’t used the system yet. Two states, Florida and Tennessee, have passed legislation banning the adoption of RCV.
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