What is Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and how does it work?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a voting system in which majority rule is upheld.  Voters are asked to rank candidates in order of preference and can rank as many candidates as they want without fear that ranking a lesser desired candidate will effect the chances of the favorite.  If the voters 1st choice candidate does not win, their vote will count for their next choice.

Where is RCV used?

For federal elections, RCV was adopted in 2016 by Maine and successfully used to elect two House members and a US Senator in 2018.  Although Maine is the first state to adopt RCV many cities around the United States have successfully adopted it for use in Mayoral and City Council races.

Haven’t we already seen RCV in Vermont? What happened with that?

RCV was used in Burlington for the Mayoral races in Burlington in 2006 and 2009.  After the second election an opposition formed which was largely effective due to misconduct that surrounded the winning candidate.  In the years that RCV was effectively used in Burlington, it was widely regarded as popular by the community.  We have not seen RCV used for federal elections in Vermont, yet.

Why is this a better option?

It eliminates vote splitting.  By ensuring that the majority rule is upheld, you never have to vote for “the lesser of two evils” or not vote for your ideal candidate for fear that it may help elect the candidate you like the least.

It promotes candidate out-reach and positive campaigning. Candidates will try for the second-rank vote from voters who clearly like an opposing candidate.  This will limit negative campaigning, promote more “middle-ground” legislation, and encourage candidates to reach out to constituents whose votes they may not have relied on in the past.

It gives voters more choice.  RCV levels the playing field for candidates and can encourage more people to run.  It also encourages voters to truly vote for who they like, and never feel like their vote doesn’t count.

Does RCV favor a certain party?

No.  RCV across the country has elected people from all parties, making it a great fit for Vermont where our elected officials are some of the most politically diverse in the country.  RCV does not negatively effect any one party, but instead supports the electorate, ensuring that people who are elected truly represent the views of the majority.

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