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September 19, 2022

Ranked Choice Voting Is a Rotten System

When Democrats push changes to election laws, you can bet it’s to boost their chances of victory.

Ranked choice voting is embraced by its supporters as a means of cutting through the hyper-partisan political atmosphere and electing consensus candidates rather than populist extremists. But enough of the propaganda from Democrats and their establishment Republican pals who stand to benefit most from this process. What exactly is ranked choice voting, and what are its consequences?

In a ranked choice election, voters are encouraged to rank all the candidates on the ballot from favorite to least favorite. First-place votes are counted, and if one candidate emerges with at least 50%-plus-one of the vote, then that person is declared the winner and the election is over. However, if no clear winner emerges, then another round of vote counting takes place in which the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. The votes of those who cast their ballot for an eliminated candidate instead go to their next choice. This process continues until only two candidates remain, with the winner being the one with the most votes in the final round.

If this sounds convoluted and confusing and ripe for fraud and complete misrepresentation of the will of the voter, then you understand ranked choice voting better than you think you do. In fact, the whole process is so cumbersome that it can’t even be conducted without computers. That alone should be a red flag to anyone wondering about the wisdom of ranked choice voting. Any voting process that’s meant to select a human candidate should be simple enough to be conducted by humans.

Ranked choice voting raises other red flags, too. Consider urban elections, which predominantly feature Democrat candidates because their platform seeks out and appeals to urban voters. In a ranked choice election, the few Republicans who have the resources to get on the ballot aren’t likely to survive the first round of voting. The election quickly devolves into a one-party exercise in which an entire bloc of voters is rejected along with their issues of concern. Likewise, any election in which several well-known (read: establishment) candidates, regardless of party affiliation, suck all the oxygen out of the room leaves lesser-known candidates to languish without having a chance to reach voters.

Ranked choice voting is dangerous to the electoral process because it subverts the will of the voter. It is mathematically possible in some instances for a candidate who is no one’s first choice to end up winning an election. It is also similarly possible for a candidate who pulls more votes on the first ballot to lose.

To see the failure of ranked choice in action, we need look no further than the recent Alaska special election to fill the vacant House seat of the late Don Young. In its first test of ranked choice elections in one of the reddest of red states, Democrat Mary Peltola was victorious over former Republican Governor Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, who ran as a Republican despite coming from a Democrat political family. Among Republicans, Palin represented the populist vote, and Begich represented the establishment vote. We don’t have final tallies, and we may not get them, but it is highly likely that many loyal Republican voters who ranked Palin first also ranked Begich second. But, since things turned out the way they did, it would appear that a large portion of Begich voters were closet Democrats who ranked Peltola second.

Peltola, Palin, and Begich will be doing this all over again in November to determine who represents the state in Congress for the next full term. And it looks as if the same scenario may play out all over again. Democrats have a vested interest in seeing Begich lose in the hope of making the election a referendum on Palin, who is a prime target of hate among Democrats and certain to stir their base to turn out to vote.

Ranked choice voting allows candidates and their political party backers to game the system, as parties can encourage loyal voters to throw their support in targeted ways in early rounds to shape the final ballot. Additionally, voters are given repeated bites at the apple after backing losers, while those who remain committed to one candidate are penalized.

Ranked choice voting does not improve our election process. It subverts it by forcing voters to pledge support to candidates they would never consider in a winner-take-all race and by silencing anti-establishment candidates seeking to shake up the status quo — which is something we sorely need these days. If the people are to have faith in their electoral process, they must be allowed to vote for a single candidate of their choosing. Any other system should be viewed with suspicion.


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