With its ability to limit polarization and provide voters a true voice, ranked-choice voting has gained momentum as a solution to the election turmoil currently besieging the country. On Tuesday, FairVote’s President and CEO Rob Richie joined NPR’s 1A radio show to discuss the future and feasibility of ranked choice voting (RCV) in America.
In the conversation, Maine’s newly elected Secretary of State Shenna Bellows highlighted the lack of attack ads and political slander present in Maine’s RCV elections, as candidates have a direct electoral incentive to engage with more people, and learn how to become a second or third choice. Bellows also highlighted the freedom that RCV creates, as it eliminates the need to vote strategically and allows voters to vote for an independent or third party candidate without also helping their least-favorite candidate win.
“Ranked choice voting is really a way to ensure that the voter’s voices are heard because voters can vote their principles or their heart rather than political strategy, you know in Maine we have a long tradition of independent candidates but one of the age old questions with any independent to third party candidate is are they a serious candidate or merely a spoiler for the traditional two parties, so with ranked choice voting you can vote for an independent or third party candidate first, and not fear that that vote might mean that the person you like the least ends up winning.” - Maine SOS Shenna Bellows
Maine, a state with a strong history of independent political candidates, has fully embraced RCV. Currently used in Maine’s presidential and federal elections, legislation is also in place to increase RCV in state and municipal elections. In Portland, it’s largest city, 81% of voters elected to extend the use of RCV.
Richie also made note of the cross-partisan support for RCV, including its use in several Republican elections across the country, and the promising trend of increased support and implementation from Maine to New York City to Alaska.
Allie Swatek, director of policy and research for the New York City Campaign and Finance Board, also addressed voter education and the ease with which voters tend to understand RCV, as the city has undergone an information campaign before New York City’s first RCV election on February 2. According to Jason McDaniel, a professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University, once RCV is implemented and better understood, most voters express satisfaction with the voting method.