Posted by Ashley Houghton on May 12, 2021 at 5:34 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Press Contact:
Ashley Houghton, Communications Director
FairVote
[email protected]
301-793-6604

FairVote Report: Ranked Choice Elections Benefit Candidates and Voters of Color

May 12, 2021 – FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for better elections, released a report today that found ranked choice voting has a measurable and positive impact on voters and candidates of color.

Ranked choice voting gives voters the option to rank candidates in order of preference: first, second, third. If a candidate receives more than 50% of first choices, they win like any other election. If not, the winner is decided by an “instant runoff”, where whoever voted for the losing candidate has their next choice counted, until the candidate with more than 50% of the vote wins. 

The report, which studied the results of 398 single-winner ranked choice voting elections in 27 jurisdictions across the country, found the following conclusions:

  1. Candidates of color benefit from the round-by-round ranked choice voting process. Winning candidates of color, particularly those who are Black or Hispanic/Latino, grew their vote totals between the first and final ballot rounds at a higher rate than winning White candidates. This indicates that candidates of color can build strong support among voters outside their traditional political bases (which RCV incentivizes) and benefit from round-by-round counting in RCV races, which translates to more victories for candidates of color.
  2. Voters of color tend to rank more candidates than White voters. In precincts with more voters of color, voters rank a higher percentage of candidates, indicating a willingness among communities of color to engage with the ranked ballot. 
  3. Candidates of color see the strongest gains in districts with a majority of voters of color, including districts where the largest single bloc of voters is White. This suggests that candidates of color are effectively earning votes outside of their own racial and ethnic groups and building broad support across their districts
  4. Candidates don’t suffer the “split votes” penalty when they run against opponents of the same race or ethnicity. Instead of dividing community support, Black candidates who run against other Black candidates in RCV elections have a higher win rate. Black candidates were elected in 67% of elections featuring multiple Black candidates but only 32% of elections with only one Black candidate. Candidates of other racial or ethnic backgrounds also experienced an increased win rate when they ran against candidates of the same racial or ethnic background. 

A copy of the full report is available on FairVote’s website.

FairVote’s primary report author will be available to answer questions on a webinar today, Wednesday 12, at 4pm. Panelists will include:

“More candidates of color are running for office than any other time in U.S. history, and we need election reforms that encourage and support more qualified candidates to run,” noted Khalid Pitts, Executive Vice President of Programs at FairVote. “Unlike other elections, ranked choice voting rewards competitive fields: not only are voters ranking candidates, candidates of color are winning ranked choice voting elections. It’s time to bring ranked choice voting to the rest of the country.”

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FairVote is a nonpartisan organization seeking better elections for all. We research and advance voting reforms that make democracy more functional and representative for every American.

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