Voices & Choices

“Stuff You Should Know” takes a look at ranked choice voting

“Stuff You Should Know” takes a look at ranked choice voting

Add ranked choice voting to the list of stuff you should know — literally.

Inspired by a trip to Australia - which is celebrating a century of RCV this year - Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark tackle ranked choice voting in their latest episode of the podcast, “Stuff You Should Know.”

As the pair discuss, RCV offers a bonanza of benefits over the traditional, single-winner plurality system: eliminating the spoiler effect, reducing partisan polarization, increasing voter turnout and replacing negative campaigning with collaborative approaches, to name a few.

It's not just Australia that appreciates this more fair and democratic voting method, either: a dozen U.S. cities and recently, the state of Maine, have signed on to ranked choice voting with successful results.

Drilling down into the details of how ranked choice voting works, Clark concludes that it’s “actually pretty easy.”

Other highlights from the podcast: the interesting (yet unfortunate) ties to communism that spelled the end for early ranked choice voting use in the U.S., plus how RCV would have worked in the 2016 presidential election.

One caveat: the duo’s well-intentioned research misses the mark in discussing the problem of ballot exhaustion.

It’s true that ballots can become “exhausted” or excluded from the tally when voters either fail to rank all candidates or are restricted to ranking a certain number (three is the max in Bay Area RCV elections).

However, the problem is nowhere near as prevalent as the podcast suggests. In fact, ballot exhaustion occurred far less after the four Bay Area cities adopted RCV than in the prior two-round runoff voting system, according to FairVote analysis. A FairVote California report on ranked choice voting in San Francisco also showed fewer “undervotes” in RCV elections compared to elections that used other voting methods.

Minus this misinformation, though, we’re heartened to hear ranked choice voting making its way to the masses through this popular podcast.

Listen to the episode here.


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