Ranked Choice Voting is a system that allows people to rank candidates by their preference. This means that if your vote is not counted for your number one preference, then it will be calculated for your second and so on. If there is no majority winner during the first round, then the decision would be made by an instant runoff as candidates are taken out in elimination rounds that will continue till a candidate wins by majority.
There are many benefits to a ranked choice voting system. “This system allows voters to choose not just one candidate based on a multiplicity of factors, but instead choose their first, second, third and so-on choice, allowing their vote to be extended beyond a single person. Second, this system entirely eliminates the need for run-off elections which are not only a drain on municipal resources, but more importantly excludes people from the voting process,” says Liz Coufal, ATA Advisory Board Member.
Ranked choice voting also improves voter turnout and ensures that every vote matters. According to Coufal, “folks with children, limited access to transportation, non-flexible working hours, disabilities, among other reasons, are often unable to vote a second time in a run-off election, leaving the results to be determined by a small group of highly motivated people.” Conversely, critics of the ranked choice voting system claim that the system is new, more difficult to understand, and that there is a risk of not having a majority winner.
Many states have adopted this system, including Maine and Alaska statewide; New York, Nevada, Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas for primaries or special elections and California, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts for local elections as well as Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Illinois for military and overseas voting.
Texas has only adopted ranked choice voting for party elections as they use another system called the “First Past the Post” System. This is when the highest polling candidate wins the election by meeting a specific requirement of votes. There is only one vote per person, and at the end of the election, the candidate with the majority vote wins. The main difference between ranked choice voting and this is that with the “first past the post” system, you are only voting for one candidate, while in ranked choice, you can vote for multiple by ranking the candidates by your preference.
The benefits of the “First-Past-the-Post” System are that it provides a clear choice and is easy to understand. On the other hand, its disadvantages are that it is not fair representation, and it usually creates many wasted votes, both creating disinterest in citizens to vote at all.
First-Past-The-Post is the most commonly used voting system in the United States with 48 of the 50 states using it in their elections. Its popularity and current widespread use are why many states are hesitant to switch to a newer system like ranked choice voting.
“Our democracy works best when it’s inclusive of all Americans, and ranked choice voting allows for it to be closer to that than ever before,” says Coufal. We will see the effects of ranked choice voting on our democratic processes very soon, as the system gains more traction and popularity nationwide.