Ranked-Choice Voting Is Already Changing Politics for the Better


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A person votes at a polling site in New York City on November 3, 2020. (Ron Adar / Shutterstock)

EDITOR’S NOTE:&nbspEach week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

If you’ve been following New York City’s mayoral race, you might have noticed an unusual trend. Candidates have openly discussed their personal second choices. Activist groups have issued joint endorsements of competing candidates. Some of these competing candidates have even appeared together at shared promotional events.

These signals of unity haven’t come out of nowhere. They’re direct consequences of a new electoral system: ranked-choice voting. In 2019, New Yorkers voted to implement ranked-choice voting for local primary and special elections, becoming the largest voting population in America to do so. The city’s June primary elections are the first to use this system, which lets voters rank multiple candidates instead of selecting one. When the results are tabulated, if any candidate has over 50 percent of the vote, he or she wins; otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated—and his or her votes are distributed to their voters’ second choices. This process repeats until a candidate crosses 50 percent.

Already, this new system is changing the race for the better. The first-past-the-post system used in most US elections causes significant problems: To avoid wasting their votes, voters are incentivized to choose the candidates they deem likely to win, not just the candidates who most closely align with their values. Candidates of similar ideologies have to compete against one another for a single spot in a “lane,” often creating personality-based rifts within voting groups. And a political movement’s hopes end up resting upon a single person; if that candidate stumbles, so can the movement’s prospects. Ranked-choice voting solves all these problems.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.



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