The Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) Act (H.R. 4464), sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D- Maryland) and a group of House colleagues, would make our elections fairer, more efficient, and more representative for all U.S. Senate and House primaries and general elections. The Act would require that all U.S. House and Senate elections be conducted with ranked choice voting beginning in 2022. It would replace all congressional runoff elections.
Already used for congressional elections in Maine and in dozens of state and local contexts, RCV makes elections better for both voters and candidates by ensuring that winners will be elected with more than half of the votes.
The RCV Act is constitutional, as Congress has the right to determine how its members are elected. The Act would ensure states receive federal funding to help them transition to RCV and to educate voters.
Ranked choice voting is a way to ensure elections are fair for all voters. It allows voters the option to rank candidates in order of preference: one, two, three, and so forth.
If your vote cannot help your top choice win, your vote counts for your next choice.
In races where voters select one winner, if a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an "instant runoff." The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until there’s a majority winner or a candidate won with more than half of the vote.
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Instead of choosing just one person on your congressional ballot, you rank all of them in order of preference. If someone earns more than half the votes, they win, just like any other election. If not, the person with the fewest is eliminated and everyone who picked that person as ‘number 1’ has their votes count for their second choices. This continues until someone has a majority of votes.
This means no more candidates winning without majority support. It also ends eliminates vote-splitting and spoiler candidates. Instead, voters feel free to choose who they really like - as many as they like- knowing their choices truly count toward electing their representative.
RCV improves democracy by promoting positive, inclusive and fair elections. RCV promotes majority support: Currently, candidates often win elections with less than 50 percent of the vote, meaning they were actually opposed by most voters. With RCV, if no candidate has more than half the vote after the first round, candidates finishing last are eliminated round-by-round via an instant runoff until two candidates are left. The winning candidate will be the one with majority support when matched against the other.
This is especially important in congressional primaries. Upwards of 80 percent of all congressional districts are not competitive and largely wired for one party or the other, so a low-turnout primary can determine who will represent an entire district. In Massachusetts in 2018, for example, one Congressional member won with a mere 21 percent of the vote in a summer primary.
RCV discourages negative campaigning. With RCV candidates succeed when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible and seek support -- and second-choice votes -- by talking to everyone, including those supporting their opponents. When a politician needs second choice votes to win, they’re incentivized to share their own vision rather than tear down another. This mitigates the extremism and polarization in our politics.
RCV provides more choice and minimizes “strategic voting.” Several candidates can compete for a seat without worrying about splitting the vote or creating a “spoiler” effect. Voters can vote for the candidate they like the most without worrying that they will help elect the candidate they like least. This opens our politics to more voices and ideas.
RCV saves money. It mimics an instant runoff, but with only one election, rather than selecting a winner with a costly and low-turnout second election.
When Americans vote with RCV, studies show they really like the extra options. After all, what's more American than greater choice? The RCV Act is the simplest and most direct path to bringing RCV to every American, making votes more meaningful and results more fair. The Fair Representation Act remains our gold standard for effectively ending gerrymandering, and we'll continue working toward its passage.