Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is an improved system of voting that allows voters to rank their candidates in order of preference. In an RCV system, if a candidate receives a majority of votes, they are declared the winner, and the election is over. If there is no clear majority, then the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to the voters second choice on the ballot. If still no majority exists, then again, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to their next choice. The process continues until there is a clear majority.
The goal of Rank the Vote Illinois to bring Ranked Choice Voting to Presidential Primary and General Elections. We plan to use the backdrop of the 2020 presidential election to draw attention to the issue and mobilize activists. We plan to have the bill introduced and passed by the general election in 2020 with implementation in 2024.
Why the Presidential Elections? The necessity for RCV is made clear by the 2020 Democratic primary. With 23 candidates, it is mathematically possible that a candidate could win with as little as 5.1% of the vote! The issue is not just with Democrats as we saw in 2016 with 17 candidates in the Republican primary and Donald Trump winning the nomination with only 30% of the vote. Below are the major benefits of RCV that applies to all elections:
- Encourage better voter turnout by allowing people to vote their conscious without worrying about throwing away a vote. We know we have low voter turn out and one reason is that if your preferred candidate is not in the running of the top two- many voters will stay home- in both primaries and general elections. If they can select a second and third choice, they know their vote will still matter even if their preferred candidate does not win.
- Encouraging Winners with Broad Support - By counting voters’ second or third choice votes, RCV will ensure that the winner has the broadest support possible, upholding the principle of majority rule that legitimizes outcomes for voters and candidates.
- Avoiding the spoiler effect – What do Jill Stein, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot have in common? Although Ralph Nadar denies it to this day, there is no question that each of these candidates drew votes away from front runner candidates, some say costing the election for the candidate they were most similar too. We should not overlook the role of dark money to third party candidates to tip the scales to draw votes from one candidate.
- Creating More Civil Campaigns - Voters and candidates in areas with RCV report more civil campaigns because candidates work to find common ground in hopes of earning voter’s backup choices.
National Landscape regarding RCV: Momentum for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is growing. At least four states are expected to use RCV in their presidential primaries: Iowa and Nevada (for early voters); Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Kansas for all voters. Maine passed legislation to use RCV in their presidential elections. The governor has yet to sign because of procedural problems.
In a political moment when many voters are dissatisfied with their choices at the ballot box, ranked choice voting promises to strengthen the voice of every voter by guaranteeing real choices and majority outcomes.