Voices & Choices

Minnesota GOP Convention Illustrates the Value of Ranked Choice Voting

Minnesota GOP Convention Illustrates the Value of Ranked Choice Voting

On Saturday, May 14, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen won the endorsement of the state’s Republican Party in a multi-hour process that would have benefited from ranked choice voting (RCV). The Minnesota GOP requires candidates to win the support of 60% of the delegates to earn the nomination, so it took Jensen nine rounds of voting to defeat four other candidates. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the convention “grew increasingly contentious as more candidates were eliminated.”

With RCV, the endorsement process would have been much faster while also providing greater incentives for civility and party unity. Instead of needing to cast nine separate ballots for gubernatorial candidates, convention delegates could have cast one ranked ballot with their full preferences. If no candidate received the required 60% level of support, the last place candidate would be eliminated and their supporters would have their ballots transferred to their next-ranked candidate. This process would repeat until a candidate earned at least 60% of active ballots. 

In the traditional multi-ballot convention process, the candidate field is gradually whittled down, so candidates have an incentive to train their fire on each other or make back-room deals between each round of voting. Delegates with families and other responsibilities may need to leave and lose their vote in the final round. With RCV, by contrast, candidates have one round of balloting in which they are incentivized to distinguish themselves while also building bridges to the supporters of other candidates. Therefore, RCV can foster a more transparent process that helps the party convention feel united behind their nominee. A Republican convention with RCV is not just a hypothetical. Virginia held an unassembled convention in 2021 that produced now-Governor Glenn Youngkin as its nominee. Indiana and Utah Republicans have also used RCV at their party conventions without a hitch. This spring, Virginia Republicans are selecting nominees with RCV in two congressional districts. In the first contest on May 5, not a single ballot had a disqualifying overvote, and 97% of ballots stayed active between the first round tally and the final round tally after two candidates were eliminated.

These moves to RCV conventions might preview a future when the GOP uses ranked ballots as part of its presidential primary process. CEO Rob Richie and other FairVote Action authors make the case for both major parties to include ranked ballots in their nomination processes in a Politics and Governance article titled “Lessons from the Use of Ranked Choice Voting in American Presidential Primaries.” Ultimately, RCV is not a partisan issue. Ranked ballots make sense for any state party—including the Minnesota GOP—that may be in search of a better and faster nomination process. 

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