The most common voting methods, for electing only one winner, in the United States are single-choice plurality and two-round runoff elections. They have given us a politics in which voters have too few choices, a democracy in which turnout suffers and winners may be insufficiently accountable to the electorate. More and more Americans realize the problems inherent in these methods, and ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as “instant runoff voting”) has emerged as a better way to conduct elections. With the growing realization that we should change the status quo, however, other voting methods are getting attention.
In the first half of 2018, nearly half a million voters ranked their choices in elections for the most important offices in their communities. First, on March 6, voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico elected their first full-time mayor in an open seat race among five candidates. Then, on June 5, voters in San Francisco elected a new mayor in a hotly-contested special election to fill the empty seat after the tragic death of Mayor Ed Lee late last year. Finally, on June 12, voters in Maine ranked their choices in state and congressional primary elections, with crowded fields in both the Republican and Democratic contests for governor and one congressional primary.
In this short report, FairVote assesses the impact of a proposed charter amendment in Santa Clara on the voting rights of Santa Clara's Asian American and Latino communities. The amendment, which will be on the ballot on June 5, 2018 as Measure A, would institute the use of multi-winner ranked choice voting for Santa Clara's City Council. Specifically, the city would divide into two multi-winner districts, and each would elect three members to the City Council.
The analysis concludes that based on the demographics of each district and voter turnout in prior elections, Measure A would result in dramatically increased political power for communities of color in Santa Clara. Asian American voters would have the power to elect one candidate of choice in each district, and Latino voters would have the power to elect a candidate of choice in one of the two districts. It further analyzes an alternative proposal: multi-winner ranked choice voting in citywide elections for all six seats simultaneously. This would have a similar impact, with potentially better representation of the distinct views of Santa Clara's South Asian and East Asian communities, though it would involve the elimination of staggered elections.
In this report, we quantify how well voters have interacted with this form of an RCV ballot over the 68 RCV elections that took place in San Francisco from 2004-2016.
The report breaks contests down into categories based on how competitive they were and analyzes the rates at which voters ranked candidates; the rates at which they skipped the contest entirely; and two types of voter errors (skipped rankings and overvotes). It measures how RCV performs in San Francisco on these and other metrics compared to non-RCV contests in the city. We find that San Francisco voters have generally made effective use of this form of an RCV ballot despite its limitations, especially compared to the prior system based on two-round runoffs.
In this short report, FairVote assesses the election rates of people of color in the California Bay Area before and after the adoption of ranked choice voting. We show that people of color hold office at a higher rate under ranked choice voting than under the prior system. We also demonstrate that people of color win office more often since the adoption of ranked choice voting across three different ways of categorizing districts: plurality-minority (districts where one ethnic minority group is the largest in the district); white-plurality (districts where ethnic minority groups are collectively in the majority, but whites are the largest single group); and white-majority.
In this report, FairVote looks at issues with the current fixed size of the US House of Representatives, and examines several proposals for making the size of the House of Representatives more dynamic. We find little evidence that the current fixed size of the House is justified beyond the practical political realities that lead to its imposition and suggest two alternative formulas for House of Representatives reapportionment. A version of the report is available below, the report can also be viewed or downloaded here.
In Laboratories of Democracy, a report co-authored by FairVote legal staff and the Campaign Legal Center, we demonstrate that impact litigation with the goal of improving democracy and elections can and should be brought in state courts under state law.
In Proportional Representation in New York City, 1936-1947 FairVote explores the buildup to and outcomes of multi-winner ranked choice voting (RCV) also know as single transferable vote (STV) on the New York City Council during the 10 year period between implementation and repeal.
In Monopoly Politics 2018 FairVote explores the extent, causes and remedies to the lack of competition and partisan fairness in U.S. House elections and the increasing polarization of members elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.