Rank Choice Voting — The sleeper issue on the 8th

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Flying under the radar this Election Day are cities, counties, and one state voting to accept rank choice voting (RCV). This isn’t the first time there has been a wave of support for RCV. From 1912 and 1930, some forms of RCV were used, but most were repealed by the mid-thirties. There was another burst of support for them in 2009–2010, that petered out as well

However, in the last ten years, RCV has emerged again as an alternative to voting candidates into office. For example, in June of 2021, New York City used RCV for the largest election in RCV’s history. This year, 32 cities in seven states used the voting procedure to determine winners.

Nationwide, 50 jurisdictions employ some form of ranked choice voting. The number of states using RCV could go from two to three if Nevada voters approve it on November 8. At the same time, Seattle voters could add their city to the list of bigger cities, New York, San Francisco, and Austin, using RCV.

The list could further expand on Election Day when eight other cities and counties vote on whether to convert to ranked-choice voting. Based on an April 2022 poll by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, these measures are expected to pass. It showed that more than 60 percent of Americans favor using RCV for federal elections.

A statewide initiative placed RCV on Nevada’s ballot. The top five candidates from an open primary would advance to the general election, which would select a winner using ranked-choice voting. If the proposal passes, voters must approve it a second time in November 2024 before it goes into effect.

Seattle voters will choose between RCV and an alternative “approval voting” system introduced by a citizen initiative. The latter approach allows voters to support as many candidates as they wish, with the person receiving the most votes winning. By a seven to two vote, the city council decided to place both proposals on the ballot. While the approval voting proposal is limited to Seattle, Washington for Equitable Representation, a coalition of organizations is pushing for RCV across the state, including for federal elections. A victory in Seattle could bolster that effort in the state legislature.

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