Opposition Myths: What Do Other People Say About Ranked Choice Voting?

Despite all the benefits of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) such as increased representation of officials, reduced runoff or primary voting costs, and ensuring an elected official is the one with the largest majority of support, there are still those out there who will try to dissuade voters from enacting RCV.

Opponents tend to use fear tactics or confusion to mislead people into thinking RCV is something it is not. The following are a few examples of common arguments that those opposed to RCV will tend to throw out when trying to detract from the benefits of Ranked Choice Voting.

  • Myth: Ranked choice voting is confusing for voters

    Fact: Ranked choice voting is simple.

    The assertion that RCV is confusing is insulting to voters.

    When surveyed 92%[1] of Minneapolis voters found RCV to be “simple” and when looking at their 2017 election, which used RCV, there was a 99.96% valid ballot rate[2]! If RCV was as confusing as detractors like to say, this would be a much smaller number.

     

     

    Here is an example of what a ranked choice ballot could look like.

  • Myth: Ranked choice voting disadvantages voters

    Fact: Ranked Choice Voting empowers voters to vote for the candidate they support most and eliminates low-turnout primary or run-off elections.

    When we look at our current voting system, it is rather common for people to say things like “what is the point in voting third party?” or “voting third party is a wasted vote.” Many people who vote are voting for the candidate who they see as the most strategic to vote for, not who they favor or prefer or identify the most with, but who they think has the best chance of winning. This is a result of the ‘first-past-the-post’ system that is common in America where you only need a plurality (more votes than other candidates but less than a 51% majority) to win, rather than a majority of support from voters. Being forced to vote strategically for who you suspect will win, rather than for your true first choice, is a very obvious disadvantage to voters today.

    Ranked Choice Voting removes this hurdle experienced by millions of Americans who want to be able to vote for the candidate they prefer, rather than one of two choices who they do not like at all. RCV gives third party candidates and parties with differing viewpoints the chance to share with voters their positions and actually get votes. With RCV there is no need to use a ‘strategic vote’ rather than a ‘preference vote’. RCV also mitigates the issue of low turnout elections such as primaries or run-off elections, which are primarily attended by older, less diverse, and more affluent voters and often lead to candidates that might not represent the greater voting base[3].

  • Myth: Ranked choice voting favors the party in power

    Fact: Ranked Choice Voting directly combats entrenched party politics by removing the spoiler effect.

    With Ranked Choice Voting this argument makes very little sense as almost all components of RCV lead to a healthier voting system that doesn’t favor any party. As previously mentioned, in America we typically use a system called ‘first-past-the-post’ or ‘winner-take-all’. That is to say the first person to get a plurality, no matter how small the lead is and how far from 50% of the vote they are, is the winner. Why should someone who can’t get 51% or more of the vote go on to represent 100% of the voters?

    In elections there are typically people who we strongly support, kind of support, oppose, and strongly oppose. As time goes on with ‘first-past-the-post’ elections, past election performance will influence how voters vote. They might strongly support one candidate but know someone who they strongly dislike has a good chance of winning. They might also know their candidate’s party has never won before and doesn’t stand a good chance of beating the person they dislike. So, they are forced to compromise and vote for the candidate who is most likely to beat the person they dislike, or risk wasting their vote. This will always lead to an election system that favors two parties and punishes voters who don’t fully align with either.

    Ranked choice voting changes this at the source. RCV allows you to choose several possible choices in order of preference. Candidates are eliminated in rounds, and as candidates are eliminated, the voters who chose that candidate still get a say in who wins by moving their vote to another candidate until only two candidates are left, and the winner is the one with a true majority of votes, ensuring that no vote is wasted.

    Check out THIS video by content creator CGP Grey for an easy explanation on how the first-past-the-post voting system works overtime.

  • Myth: Ranked choice voting costs too much

    Fact: Ranked choice voting provides savings while still providing voters the greatest value for their vote.

    How much is too much money when it comes to having a fair election? When people who oppose RCV claim it costs too much (usually without evidence) they like to make it seem like we are spending hundreds of dollars per voter to run elections.

    When RCV was implemented in Maine in 2018, it cost the state just $83,000 or $0.08 per voter to implement. That isn’t even enough to buy a gumball at your local diner.

    In Minnetonka, MN it was estimated that it would have cost $101,400 to run its 2021 election using its current system, however with RCV it would only cost $71,700, a savings of over $29,000[4]!

    Ranked Choice Voting allows places that use run-off or preliminary elections to completely replace those with one single election, saving valuable money while giving the voter the biggest impact with a single vote.

  • Myth: Ranked choice voting lets you vote more than once

    Fact: With Ranked Choice Voting you still only get one vote; you just get more say in who gets that vote

    Ranked choice voting still only allows everyone to vote just once, whether you rank your choices or simply vote for one person. In many of today’s elections, someone’s vote might not even count if there are more than two options and they select the least popular choice. This forces voters to ‘vote strategically’ rather than for who they support. RCV simply allows a voter to choose how their vote gets cast by ranking in order of preference who they wish to vote for so that they do not have to worry about strategy or wasting their vote.

  • Links to additional resources

    For additional reading, here is a selection of what other groups across the country have put together in support of Ranked Choice Voting and explaining away some of the myths that opposition groups like to put out.

  • Sources

    1. https://www.fairvote.org/research_rcvvotersupport
    2. https://www.rcvbloomington.org/faqs
    3. https://www.startribune.com/ranked-voting-promotes-issue-based-inclusive-campaigns/407977806/
    4. https://www.rcvbloomington.org/news/does-ranked-choice-voting-cost-more