On June 11, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a comprehensive report detailing six broad strategies and 31 specific recommendations intended to reinvigorate American democracy by 2026. The second recommendation of the report pushes for the implementation of ranked choice voting (RCV) in federal and local elections; the third recommendation calls for the creation of multi-member districts with representatives selected via RCV—both reforms FairVote has championed for years.
In a FairVote press release, Khalid Pitts, FairVote’s Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Programming, expressed enthusiasm at the report’s recommendations.
“As proponents of these two reforms, we’re encouraged by the commission’s vision for the future: one where anyone who feels compelled can run for office and be judged on their merits, and one where voters can make choices in the voting booth based on their own convictions, knowing their voices will be heard.”
In the report, experts emphasize what many voters already know: the current system has problems, and RCV is a simple, fair, and easy solution.
The report first laments some of the pratfalls of the current winner-take-all system: incentives for candidates to appeal to the “political fringes,” a vocal minority often “impos[ing] its will over a moderate majority,” and the fact that third-party candidates often serve as “spoilers.”
But, as the authors note, “There is an alternative: ranked-choice voting (RCV).” After a brief explanation of the concept of RCV, the report highlights some of its most beneficial aspects:
“Because second and third choices matter in the ranked-choice model, candidates have an incentive to speak to a broader group of voters. The result: more moderate candidates and campaigns, a more welcoming environment for third-party candidates, and greater confidence among voters that their votes are not being wasted or distorting the outcome.”
In its next recommendation, the report calls on Congress to repeal a 1967 law mandating single-member districts and to instead allow states the opportunity to allocate representatives to multi-member districts (MMDs) via RCV. FairVote has advocated for such reform—in the form of Rep. Don Beyer’s Fair Representation Act—for years.
“If MMDs were coupled with ranked-choice voting in congressional elections, they would encourage the participation of a wider array of candidates, each of whom would have to appeal to a more heterogeneous bloc of voters.” The report noted. “Instead of exacerbating the distortions of winner-take-all voting and drowning out minority votes, MMDs would amplify the representational benefits of ranked-choice voting and signal a victory for equal voice and representation.”
The publication of the Academy’s report provides further momentum for the RCV movement in an already-exciting year: successful use of RCV in five presidential primaries, potential ballot measures in numerous states and cities, and the potential first use of RCV in a presidential election.