When it comes to counting ballots, the political parties in America strive to maintain or gain an edge. However, the public interest necessitates a bipartisan approach. There has yet to be discovered a neutral approach that simply elicits the people’s will without distorting it one way or the other. Ranked-choice voting is a novel approach that will make elections more difficult for both parties. The concept isn’t new, but it’s gaining traction on the left. It’s easy to reject it as overly complex and, coming from professors, overly demanding for most voters outside of New York City.
While participating in the ranked voting, a voter must split his vote between a preferred candidate and some just acceptable candidates when evaluating options. The first option is determined by the voter’s own preferences—the representative who best fits his needs (Donovan et al., 2019). This decision is not based on the common good, which necessitates voters considering what other people desire. The common good is ranked behind each person’s own first choice in ranked-choice voting. For most citizens, the country’s common good is a distant second or third option. With these notions in mind it is evident that ranked choice voting is a path to be considered within the current turbulent political climate. However, as any serious transition, it would require a massive investment of resources and unavoidably inflict protests from some of the parties affected.
Ranked-choice voting is effective in preventing election tampering by fringe candidates. However, in more contested contests, removing candidates one by one might result in the removal of most voters’ second choice, opening the door for a less popular winner. In a 2009 mayoral election in Vermont, a three-way battle between a Republican, a Democrat, and a Progressive resulted in a Progressive victory. That occured despite the fact that the Democrat would have defeated the other two candidates in a head-to-head matchup.
Ranked-choice voting does not always secure a confidently represented majority choice, and as of now there is no system available that could have secured this outcome in full. Some voters’ top candidates are all removed before the final round, meaning they have no say in who wins and who comes in second. According to FairVote, only 64 of the 128 U.S. ranked-choice elections that went to at least a second round of counting produced a winner with support from a majority of all voters (Santucci, 2018). Nevertheless, ranked choice voting appears to be the closest American politics has to the desired objective.
Despite the obvious advantages of the ranked choice voting its complications are not to be discarded and can be traced back to the statement on the large scale changes. Because most Americans are inexperienced with ranked-choice voting, others fear that it will confuse voters and discourage participation. It’s too early to tell if ranked-choice voting can deliver on its promise of transformational change (Nielson, 2017). Additionally, the potential for confusion by itself can be weaponized by more influential groups against less influential groups. For example, a dominant political actor might insinuate that their opponents do not possess the full context necessary to interpret any given situation. On certain occasions, this way of argument has lead to the open conflict within the acting governmental body. When combined with the confusion related to the ranked choice voting it becomes clear that the aftermath of such change would have been very difficult to navigate.
Despite the high level of complications and caveats associated with it, ranked choice voting would be a breath of fresh air for the American politics. The situation at the moment is as divided as ever with the potential for further escalation. Within the existing system, candidates profit by mudslinging and criticizing their opponent in non-RCV elections rather than presenting their good ideas with people. As a result, campaigns may become more poisonous and divisive. RCV reduces the motivation to run a negative campaign by allowing candidates to compete for second choice votes from their opponents’ supporters. Candidates that reach out favorably to as many people as possible, even those who support their opponents, do well in RCV elections. Voters in RCV cities report more pleasant campaigning and higher levels of election satisfaction. More evidence of enhanced campaign civility and voter participation may be found on our Research on RCV website.
Furthermore, this form of voting values and prioritizes the representative value, which can be essential to better comprehend the public value distribution on the relevant social and public issues. Proportional RCV permits different groupings of voters to elect candidates of their choosing in multi-winner races (McCarthy, & Santucci, 2021). This encourages a wide range of political perspectives as well as candidate backgrounds and demographics. RCV can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups even in single-winner contests. Combined with the greater number of options under this system one may argue that RCV implementation could be a necessity considering the way political tensions are heating up within the country.
Donovan, T., Tolbert, C., & Gracey, K. (2019). Self‐reported understanding of ranked‐choice voting. Social Science Quarterly, 100(5), 1768-1776.
McCarthy, D., & Santucci, J. (2021). Ranked Choice Voting as a Generational Issue in Modern American Politics. Politics & Policy, 49(1), 33-60.
Nielson, L. (2017). Ranked choice voting and attitudes toward democracy in the united states: Results from a survey experiment. Politics & Policy, 45(4), 535-570.
Santucci, J. (2018). Maine ranked-choice voting as a case of electoral-system change. Representation, 54(3), 297-311.