Maine voters won big on June 12 when the voters of Maine approved Question 1, a referendum to protect RCV after the legislature passed a bill that would delay implementation and potentially repeal it. They ranked their choices in Maine’s first use of ranked choice voting primary elections for governor, for Congress, and for state legislature. This has elevated the issue in media coverage of this year’s primary season, and most media coverage has been positive, including the New York Times and Reason.
If you’re learning about ranked choice voting for the first time, here are some key things to know:
1. Lots of cities in the United States already use ranked choice voting.
This isn’t a brand new idea: it has a proven history in local elections across the country. In fact, about a dozen places around the country elect their leaders with ranked choice voting. Here’s a map showing where RCV is used today:
2. Recent RCV elections have had very high turnout.
In 2017, four cities held RCV elections: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Cambridge, Mass. and Takoma Park, Md. All had higher turnout than in prior elections, proving that RCV can be a part of a competitive and healthy electoral environment. The graph below shows how turnout changed in the four largest cities holding mayoral elections with RCV that had at least one open seat RCV contest:
3. Santa Fe, N.M. is the newest city to implement RCV, and its first elections went remarkably well.
Santa Fe used RCV to elect its mayor and city council for the first time in March, 2018 and it went very well. Few voters found the system confusing, there were very few errors, most voters ranked all five candidates, and more than 84 percent said the new RCV ballot was not confusing, according to exit polls.
4. More women and people of color are winning in cities with RCV.
Four cities in the California Bay Area use RCV to elect municipal officers. In addition to saving money by eliminating low turnout primary or runoff elections, they have also seen more women and people of color winning election to city offices under the new system.
5. Voters who use RCV like RCV.
When RCV was on the ballot in November, 2016, voters in Portland, Maine, which has used RCV to elect its mayor since 2011, overwhelmingly voted in favor of expanding the system statewide: 71.5 percent to 28.5 percent. In Santa Fe, more than 94 percent of voters said they were satisfied with their voting experience. Independent polling consistently shows that voters in cities with RCV support its use in their elections.