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Liberal dark money pushes ranked-choice voting as campaign gains momentum across U.S.

Ranked-choice voting “by nature, creates a power vacuum,” which liberal donors seek to create in order “to supplement party infrastructures,” Jason Snead said. These same donors decry the use of Super-PAC's when they benefit conservatives.

Published: April 3, 2024 11:00pm

As ranked-choice voting gains momentum across the U.S., the campaign supporting the system is funded by a few liberal dark money groups run by mega-donors who seek to replace the influence of political parties with their own, according to Honest Election Project Action, (HEPA) an election integrity advocate.

Liberal dark money groups are funding RCV campaigns across the country through local organizations, resulting in the push for an election system that would dilute the power of political parties and allow mega-donors to fill in.

Jason Snead, executive director of the HEPA, previously told Just the News that “RCV is elite-choice voting,” adding that the “same cohorts of big money donors on the left are pushing this, weakening the party apparatus,” so that they will be “in position to step in and fill the gap.” He believes that “liberal mega-donors are buying a new election system” that will “cater to their interests” and help push politics further left. 

RCV is an election process being introduced in states across the country, but is facing pushback from both sides of the political aisle, 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. 

Proponents of RCV argue that the system results in representative outcomes and majority rule, incentivizes positive campaigning, allows for more voter choice, and saves money when replacing preliminaries or runoffs, according to pro-RCV organization FairVote

Alaska and Maine are the only two states to have RCV at the state level, and both experienced delays in announcing the 2022 midterm election results. 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. 

Two states use RCV in elections statewide, and three counties and 45 cities use RCV, according to FairVote.

Florida, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Tennessee have banned RCVIowa, Louisiana, Ohio, and Oklahoma are all working on legislation to ban RCV.

However, pro-RCV groups are attempting to legalize the election system despite the bans. In Idaho, a pro-RCV group is looking to put RCV on the November ballot for voters to decide on.

Some state legislators attempted to push back by proposing a constitutional amendment banning RCV. The proposal failed in the Idaho state House last month after the state enacted a law last year banning RCV.

Also, in Montana, where RCV is already banned, a group is attempting to put initiatives on the November ballot that would amend the state’s constitution to implement RCV.

In November, both Nevada and Oregon voters will be voting on ballot measures that would implement RCV in elections statewide if passed.

There are currently pro-RCV legislative efforts in at least 27 states, according to FairVote.

There are multiple left-leaning groups that are funding pro-RCV campaigns.

One of those groups is Action Now, Inc., which is managed by Arnold Ventures, founded by Laura and John Arnold, a former Enron executive. Arnold Ventures is classified as a center-left philanthropy group by Influence Watch.

According to Action Now, Inc.’s 2022 IRS Form 990, the 501c(4) organization granted $1.9 million to RCV groups across the country: $600,000 to FairVote Minnesota, $100,000 to Oregon Ranked Choice Voting, $50,000 to Ranked Choice Voting for Clark County (Wash.), $200,000 to Common Cause (New York City), and $950,000 to Alaskans for Better Elections, Inc.

Action Now, Inc. also gave $3 million to a pro-RCV group in Nevada called Nevada Voters First in 2022, according to The Nevada Independent.

The Institute for Political Innovation (IPI) gave $5 million to Nevada Voters First that year. IPI “is leading the effort to seed and support state-based campaigns for Final-Five Voting,” according to its website. Final-Five Voting is a form of RCV.

According to IPI, Final-Five Voting "increases the likelihood that innovative ideas, diverse candidates, and issue-focused candidates (those who may run to bring visibility to an issue) will enter the race and create a dynamic debate between the primary and the general. "

The Hewlett Foundation, established by Hewlett-Packard’s cofounder Bill Hewitt and his family, has given at least $3.62 million to FairVote from 2014 to 2020, according to the foundation’s website.

In the foundation’s Trustworthy Election Strategy for 2021-2025, it laid out its plan to “wind down” its support for RCV “to make funds available for the new strategy to support trustworthy elections.”

Snead told Just the News on Tuesday that RCV benefits mega-donors. RCV “by nature, creates a power vacuum,” which liberal donors seek to create in order “to supplement party infrastructures,” Snead added. The system is “designed to put elites in a better position to influence and manipulate politics in the U.S.,” by using a process that they claim is “more democratic.”

The mega-donors are “very keen to make it look like RCV is a homegrown grassroots and bipartisan operation,” despite being “funded by the same people,” Snead said.

Snead explained that there could be ballot measures in six to 10 states in November regarding RCV. He explained that “it usually takes the form of a Final Five or Final Four-style system,” which would “blow up the party primary system, replace it with a jungle primary,” and then have RCV in the general election.

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