This quotation is from a column that was published in the New York Times in May of 2018, under the title "One Reform to Save America". The thing is, we don’t have to settle for “just one structural reform”. And that’s a good thing because ranked choice voting with multimember districts (or at-large elections), while it would be a major improvement in the manner in which we conduct our elections, will not, in and of itself, “save America”. “If we’re going to have just one structural reform to head off (the) nightmare” our political system has become, Proxies for Citizens is the only logical choice. That being said, ranked choice voting would work well in harmony with proxies and would be still be a major improvement in the manner in which we conduct our elections.
Ranked choice voting is a method of voting that allows voters to cast votes for more than one candidate, ranking their choices in order of preference. When used in an election where there is a single winner - an executive office, such as president, governor, lieutenant governor, et cetera; or for seats in a legislature with single-member districts - the tabulation method for ranked choice voting (see below) ensures that winning candidates have the support of a majority of the voters (at some level of preference) instead of just a plurality (the most votes, even if that is less than a majority). This is in harmony with the primary principle of democracy – majority rule.
Using ranked choice voting in at-large elections or in multi-member districts to elect members of a legislative body results in a form of proportional representation – with political parties or other collections of like-minded voters holding a percentage of the seats in a legislature equal to the percentage of the votes candidates from each party receive in an election. This results in legislatures that more accurately reflect the will of the people – another primary principle of democracy.
Ranked choice voting in single-winner elections:
This is a sample ranked choice ballot (using candidates from the 2020 presidential election).
The benefits of ranked choice voting are not theoretical, they are based on observable differences between our "winner-take-all" system with single-member districts and more genuinely democratic systems that have been in place in more and more countries around the world dating back to 1899. (Over 90 countries have some form of proportional representation.)
In the initial round of tabulation, only first choice votes are counted. If a candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, that candidate is elected. If no candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes of voters who voted for that candidate as their first choice are distributed among the "continuing candidates". If a candidate then has a majority of the "cumulative votes", that candidate is elected. If no candidate has a majority of the cumulative votes, the continuing candidate with the fewest cumulative votes is eliminated and the highest-ranked remaining choice votes of voters who voted for that candidate are distributed among the continuing candidates. This process is repeated for as many additional rounds of tabulation as necessary, until a candidate has a majority of the cumulative votes.
The process of tabulating votes for legislatures with multiple-member districts is a bit more complicated, and there are several different formulas that can be employed. The simplest method is to follow the same process as that used for single-winner elections, with the process of elimination ending when the number of "continuing candidates” is equal to the number of members to be elected.
A lot of people are intimidated by change. And ranked choice voting is a major change in the way we conduct elections. However, voters who are reluctant to embrace new ways of voting do not have to do anything different with ranked choice voting. Simply cast a single vote for a single candidate and stop there. For voters who want more choices, more choices are available. List as many of the candidates as you are allowed in order of preference. (The number of choices voters are allowed to list varies from state to state and city to city.)
The Ranked Choice Voting Act was introduced in the last Congress. It would require states to use ranked choice voting in all elections for the office of Senator and the office of Representative in Congress, including primary, special, and general elections for such office, using a system of ranked choice voting under which each voter shall rank the candidates for the office in the order of the voter’s preference.
This bill requires (1) that ranked choice voting (a system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference) be used for all elections for Members of the House of Representatives, (2) that states entitled to six or more Representatives establish districts such that three to five Representatives are elected from each district, and (3) that states entitled to fewer than six Representatives elect all Representatives on an at-large basis.
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