Posted by Emily Risch on July 10, 2018 at 2:16 PM

Ranked Choice Voting in 2018: A Mid-Year Report

Screen_Shot_2018-07-10_at_2.07.51_PM.pngIn the first half of 2018, nearly half a million voters ranked their choices in elections for the most important offices in their communities. First, on March 6, voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico elected their first full-time mayor in an open seat race among five candidates. Then, on June 5, voters in San Francisco elected a new mayor in a hotly-contested special election to fill the empty seat after the tragic death of Mayor Ed Lee late last year. Finally, on June 12, voters in Maine ranked their choices in state and congressional primary elections, with crowded fields in both the Republican and Democratic contests for governor and one congressional primary.

FairVote has tracked and reported on ranked choice voting (“RCV,” also known as instant runoff voting) elections every year since 2004, when San Francisco became the first city in the 21st century to start using RCV. Evidence from RCV in practice demonstrates that it generally makes our elections more positive, inclusive, and fair. In this respect, 2018 has been instructive.

As our political culture has grown more divisive and as cities have looked for new ways to engagement and participation, communities have increasingly looked to RCV to improve their elections. Political and civic leaders are absorbing the lessons of how to win with RCV and are running better RCV campaigns based on more engagement and grassroots outreach. Two of the three jurisdictions conducting RCV elections this year did so for the very first time, with Maine leading the way in using RCV for all state and congressional primaries and affirming its use for future congressional elections and state and congressional primaries. San Francisco first used RCV in 2004, but 2018 was its first open seat mayoral race with RCV.

This white paper examines various ways of measuring RCV’s impact in Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Maine. It begins with a short narrative describing the elections in all three jurisdictions, and then considers various metrics, all of which show that RCV is consistent with a healthy, competitive political culture. Key findings include:

  • Voter turnout surpassed expectations in all three jurisdictions.
  • Implementation of RCV was smooth and inexpensive.
  • Voters used the ballot well, ranking their choices and making few errors.
  • Outcomes were fair, with winners demonstrating both strong core support and broad support in their communities

Read the full paper below:

Join Us Today to Help Create a More Perfect Union