Voices & Choices

25 Candidates. A Splintered Electorate. A Golden Opportunity.

25 Candidates. A Splintered Electorate. A Golden Opportunity.

With the first Democratic presidential debate tonight, the case for ranked choice voting (RCV) has never been stronger. 

25 legitimate candidates are currently seeking the party’s nomination; only one can emerge as the nominee. This surplus of candidates has left the Democratic Party with a dilemma: how to enable candidates to authentically make their case without overloading an already-overwhelmed electorate.

To narrow the field, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has introduced a series of thresholds that candidates need to reach to qualify for the debates—1 percent support in three national polls or 65,000 national donors for the first two debates; 2 percent in four polls and 130,000 donors for the third debate in September.

While these thresholds are sensible measures intended to impartially winnow the field, there exists a far better way to do that: ranked choice voting.

In a recent CNN op-ed, FairVote Senior Fellow David Daley and University of Kentucky law professor Joshua A. Douglas argue that, instead of arbitrary thresholds that unnecessarily eliminate candidates months before many voters have tuned in to the election, the DNC should adopt ranked choice voting to empower voters to cull the field.

There are currently five states—Hawaii, Alaska, Kansas, Nevada, and Iowa—that will use a form of ranked choice voting to select the Democratic nominee. 

But why not all states? After all, as Daley and Douglas ask, “Shouldn't the voters themselves decide who are the most viable candidates?”

Additionally, adopting RCV would encourage candidates to run positive, civil, and issues-driven campaigns to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate in hopes of becoming voters’ second or third choices. It would force candidates to campaign to all constituencies—not just their core supporters.

In a January op-ed for The Hill, FairVote President Rob Richie, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, and EqualCitizens's Adam Eichen made a prescient case for adopting RCV in the candidate selection process.

“RCV works for all parties. It will help any party gain stronger nominees and provide more clarity about what voters really want going into conventions. Because voters’ backup choices matter, candidates with RCV tend to run more positive campaigns, seek common ground, and respect their opponents’ supporters. That means primaries will see less of the divisive rhetoric that can weaken nominees in the general election.”

By assuring voters that their choice matters and empowering candidates to run positive, civil, and issues-based campaigns, RCV would serve a twofold purpose: giving the party a candidate whom its voters can coalesce around and ensuring that the candidate is not overly weakened by the primary process.

As you watch the presidential debates, imagine how much better the candidate selection process would be if RCV were adopted nationwide. And if you want to do something about it, get involved with our RCV Week of Action. You can also participate in our NEW poll where you can rank the best debate performances from night 1, night 2, and from the entire week.

Let’s fight for better elections. Let’s fight for voters’ voices. Let’s fight for ranked choice voting. 


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