What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) is an election method that ensures winning candidates have support from a majority of voters. It is used only when there are three or more candidates for the same office.
How Does It Work?
In single-winner contests, if no candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. The second-place votes of the voters whose first-choice candidate was eliminated are then counted, and the process is repeated until one candidate has more than 50% of the votes. You’ll find many videos online demonstrating how RCV works, including this one from San Francisco and this one from Minnesota Public Radio.
In multi-winner contests the vote tabulation is somewhat different. This video explains single transferrable vote, a tabulation method that is often used for multi-winner contests.
What Are the Advantages?
- Ranked choice voting empowers voters because it allows them to vote for several candidates, in rank order, whom they could support -- including their true first-choice candidate -- without feeling like they might be “wasting” their vote.
- It also empowers elected officials because they will have a stronger mandate and more accountability when they know they are supported by a majority of voters.
- And it encourages more civilized, less negative campaigns as candidates will need to appeal to their opponents’ supporters for their second-choice votes.
For more information on the benefits of RCV visit fairvote.org.
Where does LWVMC stand on RCV?
LWVMC, in coalition with RCV for Maryland, is advocating for RCV in Montgomery County.
In February 2021, LWVMC provided testimony in support of HB767 Montgomery County - Voting Methods MC 22-21 - Introduced by the Montgomery County Delegation, that would enable the County Council to enact a law to permit ranked choice or approval voting for local offices. The Montgomery County Delegation indicated unanimous support for the bill on February 12.
In January 2020, LWVMD testified in support of Maryland-2020-SB89 Certification of Voting Systems - Standards, a bill that added new voting methods to the State Board of Elections standards for voting systems. The passage of SB 89 would have put in place the voting systems required to institute ranked choice voting in the future.
LWVMC has adopted positions supporting RCV. These positions, first adopted in 2009 and updated in 2019, are based on its study of election processes. LWVMD has also adopted positions supporting RCV based on its 2017 study of primary elections.
The LWVMC strongly supports ranked choice voting. The League was founded on the belief that voters should play a critical role in democracy, and ranked choice voting maximizes that ability.
We already have one municipality in Montgomery County, Takoma Park, successfully using ranked choice voting. It is time to expand to the rest of the county.
Questions About RCV
Q: Won't this be confusing to voters?
A: Voters make these kinds of choices all the time -- if the ice cream shop is out of lemon sherbet, you buy strawberry instead. The legislation would also provide for an educational campaign explaining how to use RCV.
Q: Won’t this make it impossible for third-party candidates to win?
A: It might actually make it easier for third party candidates to win. People will not worry that their vote for a candidate from the Green or Libertarian party, for example, will be "wasted". With RCV they can cast their first vote for the candidate they really prefer. That candidate may very well be the second choice of other voters and could win a majority in the second round of counting.
Q: Could this make it harder for women and minorities to win? With the current system, so long as a minority all votes together, they have a chance of coming in first.
A: Montgomery County has a history of electing women and minorities and could probably do better as many voters want to see more diversity in office.
Q: Won’t this be expensive to implement?
A: The costs are minimal compared to the benefits. Voter frustration with our current voting system that produces winners who do not have the support of a majority of voters undermines confidence in the democratic process. Use of ranked choice voting will increase voters' confidence that their voices are being heard and that will strengthen our electoral system. Our current voting equipment can accommodate ranked choice voting.
- The Washington Post editorial board endorsed RCV in June 2018 and January 2019.
- The Baltimore Sun endorsed RCV in October 2018.
- See fairvote.org for other endorsements.
What you can do
- Visit RCV for Maryland to get on the mailing list and learn more about RCV.
- Write to your legislators in support of RCV.