It's time to 'rank the vote' in Delaware — and across America
Eric Morrison, Kristin Brownlee :: Delaware News Journal
Election 2020: Discussing turnout for Delaware's historic vote There were fears of turmoil on Election Day. Reporters Xerxes Wilson and Sarah Gamard talk about how the day has gone for Delaware's historic vote. Delaware News Journal, Delaware News Journal
There exists in Delaware and in all of America a growing movement to enact ranked choice voting (RCV). Locales and states are enacting RCV at an exponentially growing rate. Many folks have questions about ranked choice voting—including how it works, why it’s so good for democracy, where it currently exists, and who endorses it.
Here’s how RCV works. Instead of picking one candidate, you rank multiple candidates in order of preference — with no requirement to include a candidate in your rankings if you don’t support them at all. Let’s say there are five candidates running for Governor—Smith, Jones, Gonzalez, Brown, and Williams. I have preferences amongst three of the candidates, but I don’t like two of them at all. In the voting booth, I rank three candidates in order—Brown first, Gonzalez second, and Smith third.
If a candidate receives a majority (more than 50%) of votes in the first round, that candidate wins. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, RCV kicks in with what is also known as an “instant run off.” Votes from the last-place candidate are distributed to those voters’ second choices. If a candidate now has a majority of votes, they win. If no candidate still has a majority of votes, votes from the second-to-last-place candidate are distributed to those voters’ second choices. And so on — until one candidate has a majority of votes.
We often have races with multiple candidates and the winner receives less than 50% of the vote — sometimes much less. In the 2016 Democratic Wilmington Mayoral Primary, the winner received 23% of the vote while 76% of voters chose someone else. The 2016 Democratic Primary for Lt. Governor had six candidates, and the winner received 29.6% of the vote vs. 26.9% of the vote for the second-place finisher. In 2020, ten Delaware elections were decided in which the winner did not receive a majority of votes.
This issue is not limited to primary elections. In the recent Arizona Presidential Election, Joe Biden and Donald Trump received 49.4% and 49.1% of the vote respectively, with Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen garnering 1.5% of the vote. And on January 5, Georgia held two Senate race runoff elections because no candidate received a majority of votes in the original election. (Such runoff elections are very expensive for taxpayers.)
RCV is good for democracy. It guarantees majority winners. It discourages “vote-splitting,” when candidates enter races solely to pull votes from one candidate to guarantee a win for another candidate. RCV increases participation in the democratic process and voter turnout. RCV promotes campaign civility and discourages negative campaigning because candidates want to be the second choice of their opponents’ supporters.
RCV makes all candidates viable candidates. In almost every race, we have two candidates from whom to choose — one Democrat and one Republican. When voters would like to vote for another candidate, they feel compelled to vote for the Democrat or Republican because otherwise, their vote is “wasted.” This is especially true in states like Delaware with closed primaries. RCV enfranchises over 180,000 of Delaware’s registered voters who do not identify with either major political party.
RCV leads to a more diverse slate of candidates and more diverse representation in government. In areas that have enacted RCV, the number of female candidates has almost doubled. RCV also improves the chances of winning for candidates from racial and other minority groups. In areas without RCV, 46% of non-white candidates win their elections. In areas with RCV, 60% win.
Nations around the world use RCV. Australia and Ireland have each used it for more than 100 years. Other nations using RCV include Canada, India, Scotland, and New Zealand. RCV has been used for all political races in Maine since November 2016. RCV exists in 25 of our 50 states for one or a combination of these situations — military and overseas voting; special elections; local elections; primaries; statewide elections; and Presidential primaries.
RCV has the endorsement of seven Nobel Prize winners; nine Johan Skytte Prize (“the Nobel for political science”) winners; many renowned American scholars and professors of political science, democracy, and elections; leading newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Economist; and elected officials at various levels of government including President Barack Obama and Senators John McCain, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
Eric Morrison is state representative for the 27th District, in the Newark/Bear/Glasgow area.
Kristin Brownlee is a board member of Rank the Vote Delaware.
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