I was pleased to see a couple of young people campaigning for ranked choice voting at a local arts festival. Ranked choice voting (RCV), sometimes called “instant runoff elections,” is probably the biggest institutional change that could move American politics toward the center.
The other two key changes needed are to replace partisan primaries with RCV and to replace partisan redistricting with non-partisan commissions. The Centrist Independent Voter promotes all of these changes in it’s policy position on Voting Rights and Reforms.
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
For those not familiar with the concept of RCV, it allows voters to rank a series of candidates from first to last. The initial votes are tabulated, and if no candidate wins a majority of first place votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated from the race. The ballots that were cast for the eliminated candidate for first place are then updated to reflect their second choice as their first choice. The eliminated candidate is removed from all other ballots and a similar updating process takes place. The votes are then re-tabulated in this manner until a single candidate receives a majority of the first place votes. RCV allows voters to express approval for candidates who are not front runners, without fear that their vote will be “wasted.”
When combined with a single non-partisan primary, or no primary at all, RCV eliminates the tendency of the party primary system to push the political process toward the extremes. There are a number of variants on this process. Some involve having an open, non-partisan primary in which the top 5 candidates then participate in a RCV general election. This may mean in some heavily Republican or Democratic districts that all of the general election candidates will be Republicans or Democrats. The saving grace is that since all voters will be choosing between them, the most centrist of these candidates is likely to be selected.
Ranked Choice Voting is Gaining in Popularity
According to FairVote: ”As of April 2022, 55 cities, counties, and states are projected to use RCV for all voters in their next election. These jurisdictions are home to approximately 10 million voters, and include 2 states, 1 county, and 52 cities. Military and overseas voters cast RCV ballots in federal runoff elections in 6 states.” It is noteworthy that that number is up from 43 jurisdictions in the most recent elections.
Is Ranked Choice Voting a Practical Solution?
Ranked choice voting can and has been accomplished at the local and state level without constitutional amendments or the cooperation of the courts. Apart from simply voting for the the most centrist candidates available, supporting RCV is the most practical thing that a Centrist Independent voter can do to move American politics toward the center. Go to FairVote to see if your state is considering Ranked Choice Voting.
If you have a chance to question a political candidate, at any level, your first question ought to be: Do you support Ranked Choice Voting?