This year, both major parties have found ranked choice voting (RCV) an important tool for improving their party elections and primary elections. Although much of the attention to this has focused on the Democrats’ use of RCV in presidential primaries across five states, Republicans have also successfully used RCV in a number of cases, recognizing RCV as a proven system that can save voters time and make elections fairer for everyone involved.
The Indiana Republican Party held its 2020 Convention virtually, with ranked choice ballots mailed to each delegate’s house. After delegates filled out the ballots, they were brought to a centralized location for counting. Chairman Kyle Hupfer said that after reviewing numerous options, the Republican State Committee unanimously approved a virtual convention with RCV as a way to “ensure delegate’s voices are heard” and keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The voting process will be slightly different, but maintains the cornerstones of our convention process, including the requirement that a winning candidate receives 50 percent plus one of all votes cast.” - Chairman Kyle Hupfer
RCV plays a particularly important role in sharply divided fields, as demonstrated by the party’s high profile nomination for Attorney General. In the first round, the top two candidates had only 37.4 percent and 27.4 percent of the vote respectively. However, as the third and fourth place contenders were eliminated, support consolidated behind the second candidate, who ultimately won the nomination with 52.2 percent of the final round vote.
*Results from the Attorney General nominating process from the Indiana Republican Party convention
Chairman Hupfer described the voting process as “very smooth and transparent,” and noted that the convention had “off the charts” participation.
Likewise, Utah’s Republican Party used RCV for its virtual convention. The party’s website says that “because we have several races with a very large number of candidates, and we are using an online voting system, RCV is the most practical approach this year.”
RCV proved overwhelmingly popular at the convention, saving delegates time by eliminating the need to vote in multiple rounds for the same race. 72 percent of delegates polled said they preferred RCV over multiple rounds of counting.
Following on the heels of that success, two Republican legislators announced they will introduce legislation to conduct all of the state’s publicly funded primaries using the system.
Furthermore, RCV made an impact at local Virginia Republican conventions, where nominees and party leaders were chosen with backing from the majority of the party.
The 10th Congressional District Convention used RCV to choose the party’s congressional nominee, where a candidate who came in third in the first round of voting emerged as the winner in the final round. The 11th Congressional District Convention used RCV to select delegates to the Republican National Convention and state central committee.
Likewise, three candidates for the 7th District nomination released a joint statement calling for use of RCV in their primary, saying it “ensures the strongest possible candidate emerges as the nominee and ensures the Republican party remains unified ahead of a very challenging election.”
The widespread use of RCV in Republican conventions shows it is a bipartisan reform. RCV is beneficial to both Republicans and Democrats because it eliminates time-consuming runoff elections and allows parties to choose consensus candidates with strong backing heading into the general election.