For decades now, political commentators and citizens alike have voiced these criticisms about Congress – yet little has been done to alter this ossified, gridlock-ridden status quo.
A group of reform-minded U.S. House members wants to change that.
Their solution? Ranked choice voting (RCV).
Yesterday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and 11 additional co-sponsors introduced the Ranked Choice Voting Act in Congress, which would require states to adopt RCV in all congressional primary and general elections starting in 2022 (and provide the requisite funding to do so). They’ve worked closely with FairVote and its reform allies in preparing the bill and campaigning to win its adoption.
RCV, an increasingly popular election method, is used in primary and federal elections in Maine (including next year’s presidential election), in four party-run presidential primaries next year, in multiple cities–including San Francisco, Las Cruces, N.M. and Minneapolis, Minn.— and in countries like Australia and Ireland.
Here’s how RCV works:
Voters can rank the candidates they like best, in order, while retaining the option to select just one candidate.
As in any election, a candidate wins outright if he or she is ranked first by more than half of the voters. Otherwise, an “instant runoff” ensues; the candidate in last place is eliminated, and voters who ranked that candidate as their “number 1” have their votes count for their next ranked choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes.
Ranked choice voting produces a candidate that has broad, majority support—delivering the candidate a mandate to govern and ensuring that voters’ voices are heard.
Furthermore, RCV eliminates vote-splitting. This liberates voters to exhibit their support for third party candidates, extinguishing any fears that votes for such a candidate will be “wasted” or unintentionally boost their least-favorite candidate. This will also allow third party candidates to have their ideas heard without being tagged as “spoilers,” invigorating our politics and breathing fresh air into the two-party system.
RCV also addresses the ‘runoff problem.’ When held in general elections runoffs for congressional races are low-turnout affairs held in December (or even January) that feature nasty, bombastic rhetoric and bleed state governments of millions of dollars. RCV, by conducting a series of ‘instant runoffs,’ ends any need for these low-turnout affairs—saving governments and donors millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses.
Ensuring majority support, eliminating vote-splitting, accommodating 3rd party candidacies, and phasing out costly runoffs are unequivocally crucial benefits of RCV. But that’s not all. RCV also strikes at the heart of our hyper-partisan political environment by creating incentives for friendlier elections.
Beecause candidates need to maintain broad appeal to vie for second choice affection of their opponents’ supporters, candidates are incentivized to tamp down divisive rhetoric. In effect, RCV ensures that it’s not enough for a candidate to merely energize their base, watch other candidates split the vote, and win with a plurality. RCV compels candidates to widen their appeal and provide a positive vision for their campaign—encouraging friendlier elections, a less-jaded populace, and, hopefully, better governance.
Here’s the bottom line: there’s a lot broken with our system, and RCV is not a panacea—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be part of the solution.
By ensuring majority support, eliminating vote-splitting, eradicating costly run-offs, incentivizing diverse third-party perspectives, and encouraging positive campaigns, RCV truly makes our system work better.
When voters realize the system might be starting to work, they will be further incentivized to participate.
When more people participate in our democracy, we have better, more responsive governance.
And voters deserve better governance. Let’s work toward that ideal by passing the RCV Act.