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Election integrity advocates fight against 'confusing' ranked-choice voting pushed by left

Florida, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee have banned ranked-choice voting, while Alaska and Maine have implemented it statewide.

Published: June 27, 2023 11:27pm

Updated: June 28, 2023 6:49pm

As ranked-choice voting gains momentum, election integrity advocates are fighting back over what the call a “confusing” voting system that they say would give the left more power.

Ranked-choice voting is an election process being introduced across the country, amid pushback from some states, including efforts to ban it. 

With RCV, if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then a runoff system is triggered.

When voters cast their ballots, they rank each candidate in order of first-to-last.

If one candidate doesn't reach the 50% plus-one vote threshold, then the candidate with the least amount of first-choice votes is eliminated, then second-choice votes from those who voted for the last-place finisher are reallocated among the remaining candidates and tallied – in a process that continues until a candidate receives the majority of the vote.

Alaska and Maine are the only two states to have RCV at the state level.

Three counties and 47 cities also have RCV, according to pro-RCV organization FairVote. Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont have passed pro-RCV legislation this year, and 27 states are considering pro-RCV legislation.

Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, said that while RCV proponents claim the system will create “a more representative and responsive government,” it in fact makes voting and tabulating ballots more difficult.

“Every single ballot can lead to changes in the way that candidates are selected or eliminated and can actually change the outcome of entire election,” he told John Solomon in a special report to be aired Wednesday evening titled, “Running Elections Through Ranked Choice Voting,” and sponsored by Heritage Action for America.

Alaska held its first ranked-choice election last year, which wasn't decided until two weeks after Election Day 2022.

Election Day 2022 was Nov. 8. But the races for Alaska incumbents GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola weren't tabulated until Nov. 23. 

Murkowski trailed slightly behind Trump-backed Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka on Nov. 18 at 43.11%, to Tshibaka's 43.28%, with 95% of the ballots counted. However, after counting the ranked choices until a candidate received a majority, Murkowski won with 54% of the vote.

In Maine's election, the results were announced eight days after Election Day.

Florida, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee have banned RCV.

However, in Idaho, a ballot initiative is being considered to replace the state’s closed party primary elections with RCV.

The state attorney general’s office has raised concerns about the initiative, arguing it violates state law and the Idaho Constitution. The initiative needs signatures from 6% of registered voters statewide by May 1, 2024, to be placed on the ballot in the 2024 general election.

RCV proponents are “pushing to get rid of the party primary system,” Snead said.

He argued that by switching to RCV everyone would runs in a "California-style jungle primary," then the top five vote-getters would advance to a general election where you use ranked-choice voting to compute the results.

Snead also say that process gets rid of party primaries and thus "would weaken political parties and leave a power vacuum."

He also argues proponents of RCV are “betting that these outside and independent expenditure groups, funded by folks like George Soros, are ready and willing and waiting in the wings to fill that void."

"This is, quite literally, left-wing elites buying a new election system that is more responsive to them, to their politics, and to their agenda,” he said.

Snead also said that in elections with multiple races, voters would, for example, have to rank five candidates in 20 races. 

"So you don't get just a ballot, you get a scroll that you have to unfurl," he continue. "Then imagine doing that sitting bedside in a nursing home next to an elderly parent or grandparent. It’s a nightmare, no matter how you look at it.”

Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation’s manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative, pointed out that when RCV was used in the New York City's 2021 mayoral election for the first time it took two weeks to tabulate the votes.

“They had 10 candidates in the race," he said. "So the average voter going in was supposed to rank all 10 candidates. Because nobody got a majority of the vote, they had to go through eight rounds of vote counting and throwing out people's ballots. So many voters in New York did not rank all the candidates, but that by the time they got to the eighth round, they had thrown out 140,000 ballots. Those voters’ ballots did not count in the last election.”

Von Spakovsky also argued the leader of a local NAACP was "very much against” RCV in that race, over concerns it made voting more confusing and that it would “disenfranchise the city's black voters."

"So I think there's a potential Voting Rights Act lawsuit against ranked-choice voting,” he said.

FairVote told Just the News on Tuesday in an email, linking to data on voter support of RCV: “Everywhere ranked choice voting is used, voters like and understand it – 95% said it was simple in New York City, 92% in Minneapolis, 85% in Alaska, 81% in Utah, etc.

The organization also said that there are “different forms of ranked choice voting," and that “it can be used within party primaries and that Alaska is the only place in which it has been paired with nonpartisan primaries.”

FairVote also pointed out that conservative leaders have expressed support for ranked-choice voting in local elections and party primaries including when it was used to nominate Republican Glenn Youngkin for Virginia governor.

Regarding donors, FairVote said, “We're proud to be supported by individuals and foundations from across the nation and across the political spectrum,” and linked to the organization’s financial page.

Former Virginia GOP state Delegate Chris Saxman told Just the News on Tuesday the confusion argument is “probably the weakest" because it implies “people aren't smart enough to figure it out.”

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