By Quincy Midthun
Ranked choice voting (RCV) allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference; if one candidate receives more than half of the initial ballots, they win. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the voters who picked that candidate as their first choice have their second choice counted. This continues until a candidate exceeds the 50 percent threshold.
Data in localities using RCV has shown an increase in women and people of color running in – and winning – elections. A recent report by RepresentWomen found that cities with RCV systems elect more women than cities with traditional plurality voting systems (see graphic above), suggesting that RCV is an effective way to encourage fairer elections with more representative and equitable outcomes. An additional co-benefit of RCV in today’s political landscape is improved civility amongst political candidates, as they must campaign for both first and second choice support. As a result, notes nonpartisan organization FairVote, “Candidates are incentivized to appeal to a broader range of voters and to avoid negative statements about opponents to reduce the risk of alienating their supporters.”
RCV in action
- Since instituting RCV in 2010, Oakland, CA has elected three women mayors, including current Mayor Sheng Thao, elected in November 2022 as the first Hmong American mayor of any major US city. In Oakland’s recent mayoral election, 10 candidates ran for the seat and voters were able to rank their top five choices.
- Takoma Park, MD elected their first Black mayor, Talisha Searcy, in November of 2022. Takoma Park has used RCV since 2007,but this election was the first time three candidates ran for the seat since RCV was implemented.
Cities that have recently committed to RCV:
- Fort Collins, CO voted in November 2022 to approve the use of RCV for future elections. Current mayor Jenni Arndt spoke in support of RCV stating, “It lets every single voice be heard and it adds to civility in the campaign because every single person campaigning needs to talk to every single constituent because even if you are not their first choice, you might be their second choice.”
- Evanston, IL voted in November 2022 to approve the use of RCV in future elections, becoming the first city in Illinois to approve RCV for all voters. Current mayor Daniel Biss is a strong supporter of RCV stating, “[it works] to boost voter turnout and diversify the ranks of elected officeholders… it would also eliminate low-turnout primaries and thus ensure that more voices are heard in our elections.
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