What’s what in our government…. Ranked Choice Voting Explored

Let’s get smarter about different voting methods like Ranked Choice

by Dannelle D. Stevens – Election Integrity Study Group

MultDems may have heard rumors that we need to change our voting methods. Other cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan, San Francisco and 29 others RankedChoiceVotingCities2021 opted in for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).  Why would any city choose to change from the current “winner-takes-all” system to RCV? 

The problem with the dominant voting system surfaces when we look at who holds and retains  elected offices. Incumbents have a powerful advantage and that advantage leans heavily toward business-as-usual, benefiting the rich, mostly white, mostly male, minority voters. Here is a table from Reflective Democracy:

Another table from Reflective Democracy illustrates the power of incumbency:

In addition to the advantage that minority white males enjoy as a majority of the elected representatives, the incumbency effect strengthens their hold on the levels of power. 

source: Reflective Democracy

As you can see by these tables, the chances of defeating an incumbent are low.  In 2019, 94% of the incumbents were reelected. Incumbents are often white, male, wealthy, and older. If we want to change the playing field to more represent what America is really like today, we must change our practices.  Many have pushed for Ranked Choice Voting.

Yet, RCV has several notable limits. Limits of Ranked Choice Voting is an excellent video that explains RCV.  Briefly, however, RCV is only used when you have more than two candidates. Voters rank candidates from most to least favorite.  Sounds simple? Where it gets complicated to explain is how the final candidate is chosen. Through a series of rounds, your vote is not lost but added to the total votes of candidates up the ballot depending on your ranking. 

One problem with RCV is that it is difficult to explain and engender faith from voters that their vote counts. Watch the video above, especially the YouTube explanation from the Maine election on how it works.

In addition, where RCV does not work well is when voters split votes because there are two strong candidates. RCV does not guarantee that either one will win.  

Learn more about alternative voting methods that seem to blast through the negative effects of the spoiler effect and the power of incumbency on voting.  Here are some links to an article with a short video about RCV.  

Another method (used by MultDems to elect officers) is STAR voting. Here is a link to a video about how STAR voting works. This video addresses some of the problems with RCV, especially about explaining it to voters. 

Next month I will go deeper into Ranked Choice Voting and STAR voting and other specific alternative voting methods.

Source: Reflective Democracy .

To learn more about the Election Integrity Study group, click over to the MultDems “Get Active” page, HERE.