Voices & Choices

Increased voter participation with RCV counters small voter error uptick

Increased voter participation with RCV counters small voter error uptick

New analysis from Sightline Institute finds that ranked choice voting increases voter participation, which far outweighs the relatively small uptick in voter errors. Some skeptics of ranked choice voting (RCV) worry that the system, which has been successfully used in many cities across the country, might exacerbate existing problems in voting, such as overvoting, undervoting, or ballot exhaustion. Sightline’s research counters those concerns.

In a RCV election, overvoting occurs when a voter mistakenly gives two candidates the same ranking, which results in that ballot being thrown out. Alternatively, undervoting is often an intentional act, when a voter skips races because they don’t have a strong feeling on the candidates or merely as an act of protest; ballot exhaustion occurs when a voter ranks candidates who do not make it to the final round of an election. As Sightline reported, in a plurality election, “ballot exhaustion is the difference between voters in a primary or runoff election and voters in the general election.”

As we’ve seen, these problems are present in all voting systems. Yet with RCV, they are outweighed by the increase that RCV brings in voter participation. Similarly, the system encourages more candidates to be on the ballot which, studies in multiple cities show, leads to slight upticks in overvoting, but downticks in undervoting. “Though having more candidates on the ballot may open voters up to more mistakes, it also appears to engage them more in an election,” according to the analysis.

You can read Sightline’s analysis here.

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