THE PROBLEMS OF PLURALITY VOTING
Our political system leaves many of us feeling unrepresented and prevents us from working together to find solutions to major challenges. A key source of this disfunction is our “plurality” voting system, which shuts out independent voices, lets politicians to win with less than a majority of support, and forces voters to choose between the “lesser of two evils.” Ranked Choice Voting isn’t going to fix all the problems with our political system today, but is is a simple, commonsense change that we can take to make things better.
Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting
Ensures Majority Support by eliminating the “spoiler effect” to elect a candidate who appeals to a broad base of voters. In our current “plurality” system, candidates can win election despite being the last choice of most voters. Ranked Choice Voting guarantees the election of majority winners, whose support extends beyond a narrow base. This is done by counting the votes in a series of “instant runoffs” until one candidate has more than 50% of the vote. Learn how Ranked Choice Voting works.
Expands Voter Choice by allowing you to vote for who you really want, without settling for the “lesser of two evils.” In our current system, if your favorite candidate is unlikely to win, you have two bad choices: (1) cast a “safe” vote for one of the front-runners, to avoid electing the one you like least, or (2) cast a principled but risky vote for your favorite candidate. You shouldn’t be forced to take sides in this lose-lose dilemma. Ranked Choice Voting lets you vote for candidates you truly support, not just against the ones you oppose.
Promotes Diverse Candidates by encouraging more candidates to run for office without fear of vote-splitting. In our current system, candidates are often pressured to drop out, shamed as “spoilers,” and excluded from public debates. Ranked Choice Voting welcomes all candidates into the race — and you can’t win if you don’t run. For example, a study of Bay Area cities with Ranked Choice Voting found women and people of color are running and winning office more often than they are in cities without RCV.
Curbs Negative Campaigning by rewarding candidates who reach beyond their base to find common ground with more voters. Voters are tired of toxic campaign rhetoric and mud-slinging. With Ranked Choice Voting, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents. While candidates must still differentiate themselves to earn 1st-choice support, a campaign that emphasizes negative attacks over positive ideas may lose crucial 2nd and 3rd choice support. Comprehensive polling that compared cities with RCV to those without found that voters in RCV cities experienced campaign messages that were more positive and constructive.
Strengthens Party Unity by tempering intra-party tensions during contested primaries and choosing nominees with a mandate from party voters. By allowing voters to rank primary candidates in order of preference, Ranked Choice Voting helps consolidate competing party factions. The incentive to positively campaign under RCV means fewer rifts between party members after a hotly contested primary, and the requirement that winners demonstrate a majority of support gives nominees the mandate they need to rally the party behind them. RCV helps every party put their best foot forward heading into the general election.
Saves Money and Boosts Turnout by eliminating the need for costly, low-turnout preliminary elections for city office. Most cities in Massachusetts use a runoff-like process in which a “preliminary” election narrows down the field of candidates before the general election. Preliminary elections are expensive to run, draw anemic turnout, still allow vote-splitting, and are a hassle for all involved. Ranked Choice Voting conducts runoffs instantly from a single ballot, so preliminary elections become unnecessary, saving cities money and concentrating voter participation into a single higher-turnout election.