Voting by ranking: how the RCV works
Money and Groups Pushing Rank Voting (Complete Series)
How RCV Works | Winning by losing
Snap | The greatest defenders
Summary: At least 22 jurisdictions, including New York, San Francisco, Maine and Alaska, used preferential voting (RCV) in their last elections. This number is expected to more than double in the next round of elections. Efforts to push the RCV are almost exclusively funded by the usual leftist suspects, arguing that it is more democratic. Yet despite its distinctly leftist smack, some Republicans have shown interest in the RCV. Even Utah now allows local jurisdictions to use RCV. Opponents argue that RCV is unnecessarily confusing to voters and may lower voter turnout among minorities. With leftist donors pouring millions into the campaign, RCV will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future.
In New York’s Democratic mayoral primary in June, Eric Adams won a 10-point lead over his nearest challengers, making the former police officer potentially the second black mayor of the nation’s largest city.
Except that commanding lead all but evaporated to a narrow 2-point lead in the next round of counting thanks to the city’s new Ranking Voting (RCV) system.
New York City has adopted ranked choice voting — a system in which voters rank candidates from most to least preferred — for primary elections. If no candidate wins 50% of the votes, the vote count moves to another round and the second choices are taken into account. The theory behind the method – sometimes called instant trickle-down – is that no one wins a multi-candidate contest without less than 50% of the vote.
The reform came after a 2019 ballot initiative largely funded by $500,000 from Unite America, funded by Kathryn Murdoch, and $1 million from the Action Now Initiative, a liberal group founded and funded by donors. liberals John and Laura Arnold. Jonathan Soros, son of leftist billionaire George Soros, also lost $100,000 of his fortune to change the New York primary election. Level the Playing Field, a group led and financially backed by activist and hedge fund manager Peter Ackerman, is a major donor to efforts to push ranked choice voting elsewhere.
Unite America, with $3.8 million in help from media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s daughter-in-law, has been the biggest funder to promote this form of election in states and localities across the country. The main organizations advocating for change in states and local jurisdictions have been the Committee for Preferential Voting, FairVote and other mostly left-wing electoral reform groups.
The states of Maine and Alaska have ranked choice voting statewide, while about 50 cities and counties have adopted the system, according to FairVote, a left-leaning electoral reform nonprofit that advocates for adoption of the system. San Francisco was the first major city to adopt it, and New York is the most populous jurisdiction to adopt RCV.
Although it varies by jurisdiction, New York voters can rank their top five picks. But not everyone left of center agrees with the idea. Long before the 2021 mayoral primary, minority leaders in New York said the new system could work against minority candidates, as it nearly did. Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Conference of the NAACP, said RCV “is not for us,” according to the Manhattan time.
The borough newspaper reported that New York City Council member Daneek Miller, co-chair of the council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, said, “Under the preferential vote, the city of San Francisco has seen a turnout voter depressed in communities of color.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper reported that caucus co-chair Adrienne Adams said, “Now that our black and brown communities have enjoyed electoral success, powerful special interests want to change the rules on us.
Ultimately, Adams emerged as the Democratic candidate for mayor, but the outcome was far from certain, although he was the first choice of a large majority of Democratic voters in the city.
Proponents, such as FairVote and Unite America, say this form of voting means voters would no longer have to settle for the lesser of two evils and would lead to less polarized politics.
Opponents say it could be confusing for voters and, perhaps more importantly, may mean the candidate with the most votes in first place does not win the election.
How RCV works
Preferential voting varies by jurisdiction, but generally works like this in a crowded primary election field or a multiparty general election:
- All candidates for a given office are listed on the ballot. Instead of choosing a single candidate, voters rank each candidate from “1” to “2” to “3” and so on based on their preference.
- If a candidate wins 50% or more of the first preference votes, the election is over.
- However, if no candidate wins 50% or more in the first count, the candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated and officials do another vote count for the remaining candidates.
- Voters who chose the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their votes counted for their second preference in this next round of tabulation.
- The counting continues, with one or more other candidates eliminated, until one candidate finally emerges with a majority of votes.
Supporters insist it is a non-partisan push. While the bulk of support comes from the left, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a notable Democrat, vetoed a bill to make the nation’s most populous state an RCV state. Newsom is a former mayor of San Francisco, the first major municipality to adopt the measure. He called the RCV confusing to voters in his 2019 veto message: “Where it has been implemented, I fear it has often led to voter confusion and the promise that the preferential voting leads to greater democracy is not necessarily held”.
To challenge this puzzling claim, pro-RCV FairVote cited a Bangor Daily News survey after the 2018 election that found 75% of respondents said they understood the preferential-choice voting system in Maine.
Yet a bigger complication is disenfranchising voters, according to a study by election law experts Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams, both former Justice Department lawyers.
“Not only is ranked voting too complicated, it also disenfranchises voters, as ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are set aside to fabricate a false majority for the winner,” he said. writes von Spakovsky, senior legal officer at the Heritage Foundation and Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “But it’s only the majority of voters who remain in the final round, not the majority of all voters who actually voted in the election.”
In the next installment, ranked voting has created controversy where it has been used.