Ranked Choice Voting

  • IASbaba
  • June 25, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Elections
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Ranked Choice Voting

Context: Ranked choice voting made its debut in New York City’s mayoral polls.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

  • The system is based on a simple premise: Democracy works better if people aren’t forced to make an all-or-nothing choice with their vote.
  • Rather than pick just one candidate, voters in this system get to rank several in order of preference. 
  • Popular overseas: It has also been used by Australia, Ireland and Malta since the early 20th century. Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland have all adopted it as well.
  • The Oscars have also been using it since 2009 for its Best Picture category

How does ranked choice voting work?

  • In New York City’s version, voters get to rank up to five candidates, from first to last, on their ballot.
  • If someone gets 50% plus one after all the first-choice votes are counted, then the election is over and that candidate wins. 
  • But if no one gets 50% plus one, it’s on to Round 2.
  • The person with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters’ second choices get redistributed as votes for other candidates.
  • This reallocation of votes goes on until someone reaches 50% plus one.

Merits of this system

  • People’s Voice Counted: Even if a voter’s top choice doesn’t have enough support to win, their rankings of other candidates still play a role in determining the victor.
  • More moderate candidates: It’s tough for someone to get elected through this system without broad support. In a traditional election, it’s possible for someone with fringe political views to win even if they are deeply disliked by a majority of voters.
  • Less negative campaigning. The argument goes that candidates need a majority of voters to like them (at least more than the next person) and to cater to wider group, candidates mellow down their polarising nature of campaigning. 
  • Possibility of increased voter turnout: People can feel good about casting their vote. Instead of holding their nose for that one choice they get, voters can express at least a first choice for the person they really like.

Demerits of ranked-choice voting: 

  • It is Complicated: It requires voters to do a lot more research. It also makes races less predictable.
  • Some argue it’s less democratic because it goes against the idea of one person, one vote.
  • Transparency and trust are also potential problems. Under the modern ranked choice system, the process of redistributing votes is done by computer. Outside groups will have a harder time evaluating whether the software sorted the ranked votes accurately.
  • Lots of people don’t fill out all the choices: It is difficult to know the true will of a majority of the people if everyone isn’t filling out all the choices
  • It could encourage horse-trading. Ranked-choice voting could open the door for candidates to make deals with one another about who their voters should go for as a second choice.
  • It might not necessarily reduce negative campaigning: Much of the negative campaigning is done by outside groups, and nothing in ranked-choice voting stops those entities from continuing to do so.

Connecting the dots:

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