Voices & Choices

Kansas Primary Is a Win for RCV Proponents

Kansas Primary Is a Win for RCV Proponents

First Nevada. Then Wyoming. Then Alaska. And now Kansas.
In 2020, four states have used ranked choice voting (RCV) for their party-run presidential primaries—and, in all places, RCV promoted turnout, empowered voters, and guaranteed that no votes were “wasted.”
Kansas’s recent all-mail primary, with its results released May 3, was the latest to be conducted via RCV. While Joe Biden—with 70 percent support on the first ballot and 76.9 percent support on the final ballot—was certainly a winner, the bigger winner was Kansas voters. Why? Because every single eligible voter was mailed a RCV primary ballot, making sure all voters’ voices could be heard.
To wit, primary turnout soared, with the nearly 147,000 ballots cast more-than-tripling turnout from Kansas’s 2016 caucuses. Even better, the fact that more than 99.8 percent of ballots indicated a valid first choice illustrates that RCV is simple, fair, and easy.
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Last year, in an effort to allow its voters more voice and choice in selecting a presidential nominee, Kansas Democrats ditched their caucuses in favor of an RCV primary. Indeed, Kansas Democratic Party Secretary George Hanna embraced RCV as a simpler, better, and more inclusive version of the party’s traditional caucus process.

“Rank choice voting essentially is caucusing by paper,” he told the Emporia Gazette in August. “You are going to pick your first choice of the candidates that are available, your next choice…and rank them.”

Kansas Democratic Party Chair Vicki Hyatt was similarly effusive in her praise of RCV.

“Ranked-choice voting seemed the most logical answer,” she told The Atlantic. “This empowers the voter.”

It’s no coincidence that Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas—all states with mail-in RCV ballots—experienced success and increased turnout even amidst a turbulent primary season. Their success provides a roadmap for other states holding elections during the Covid-19 pandemic: mail all voters a ballot and, if possible, make the ballot RCV. In fact, Hawaii is currently conducting an all-mail RCV primary (with results to be released later this month), and Maine is set to use RCV for the presidential election in the fall.  That’s because RCV is simple, easy, and common-sense.

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