Posted by Ashley Houghton on May 23, 2020 at 6:09 PM


Press Contact: Ashley Houghton
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Hawaii Democratic Presidential Primary Models Ranked Choice Voting

Hawaii Success Marks Last of Five States Using Ranked Choice Voting in Democratic Presidential Primary

Honolulu, Hawaii; May 23, 2020 – FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reform in the United States, praised Hawaii Democrats’ use of ranked choice voting in their presidential primary. The Democratic Party of Hawaii released results from their party-run presidential primary today: a visual representation of the rounds of tabulation is available here.

Hawaii is the fifth and final state this year where a major party used ranked choice voting for the first time in a presidential nomination contest for convention delegates: all Democratic voters in Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas cast ranked choice voting ballots in party-run primaries this year, as did more than two-thirds of voters in the Nevada caucuses where early voting was held with ranked choice voting ballots.

Hawaii Democrats planned to release their results on April 4th, but cancelled in-person voting due to the coronavirus and extended the time that people could request and return their ballot. Most ballots were cast in March before Joe Biden became the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. Voter turnout was a record for a Hawaii caucus or primary.

Top takeaways:

  • Joe Biden easily won the primary by 63% to 37% over Bernie Sanders in the final round. Biden led Sanders by 56% to 31% in the first round, and they each picked up more than 1,500 votes in the “instant runoff”, during which all candidates below the delegate viability threshold of 15% were eliminated one by one until only Biden and Sanders remained.
  • More than 99.8% of returned ballots indicated a valid first choice in Hawaii voters’ first use of ranked choice voting. Although voters were limited to ranking three choices among 10 candidates and uncommitted, more than 96% of voters had their ballot count for a delegate, as compared to only 87% of voters ranking Biden or Sanders before applying ranked choice voting.
  • Biden competed well in the instant runoff, picking up slightly more votes than Sanders overall. Among trailing candidates, Elizabeth Warren finished third, followed by Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg.
  • Voter turnout was the highest-ever for a caucus, topping 35,000 and representing nearly half of those who were sent a ballot even though many reliably Democratic voters in Hawaii are not registered to vote as Democrats and did not receive a ballot unless requesting one.
  • Voters handled the Hawaii Democratic primary consistently well, as previously found in Wyoming, Kansas, and Alaska. A visualization of these comparisons can be seen here.

Democratic Party of Hawaii Chair Kate Stanley noted that her party’s decision to enact choice voting happened at the right time. "We decided to implement ranked choice voting because it makes common sense: ranked choice voting ensures more votes count. We had no idea a global pandemic was on the horizon, but we're glad we instituted voting from home and ranked choice voting when we did."

“These five states prove that ranked choice voting is an effective and efficient way to ensure more people’s vote is counted; the pandemic could have wreaked havoc on our elections, but instead voters were able to ensure their ballots reflected their desires,” added Rob Richie, President and CEO of FairVote. “Ranked choice voting is being used successfully by more than 10 million voters nationwide, and it’s time to implement it for all types of elections, from local municipal races to the presidential election.”

FairVote worked closely on voter education with nonpartisan organizations in Hawaii, including creating a video and written materials

Maine voters will also use ranked choice voting in its primaries and its general election for President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House this November.


FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. 

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