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Pros and Cons of Ranked-Choice Voting

Pros and Cons of Ranked-Choice Voting
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By    |   Friday, 03 July 2015 04:19 PM

A growing trend in cities has been using ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, for local elections as they weigh the pros and cons of different modes of voting.

Memphis, Tennessee, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, are scheduled to use ranked-choice voting for local elections in the next two years, according to FairVote.

Ranked-choice voting is when electors choose their top three candidates for positions in order of preference. It is done in case no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes. Here are the pros and cons of this voting method.

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1. No need for expensive runoff elections.
Last year, Alabama had a runoff election for several partisan positions, and it cost the state $3 million, according to The Associated Press. Ranked-choice voting includes a solution to elections that results in no majority winner through an elimination process and having electors select their second- and third-choice candidates.

2. Politicians tend to adopt a more civil tone in campaigns.
According to the Twin Cities Daily Planet, candidates are less likely to use attack ads and bash their competitors when a ranked-choice voting election used. This is partly the result of having more than one competitor, but ranked-choice voting also places emphasis on which candidates are the most liked.

3. Enough with the strategy games.
Advocates argue ranked-choice voting allows voters to elect their favorite candidate no matter the party, according to TwinCities.com. Third parties are less likely to spoil elections with the process of elimination. Electors may be able to worry less about helping their least preferred candidate by choosing their favorite person running.

4. Majority wins.
Proponents of ranked-choice voting argue it is a more democratic process, TwinCities.com reported. Some elections have plurality elections in which the candidate who receives the most votes is the winner, even if they do not obtain a majority. Ranked-choice voting allows the person placed into office to have some sort of support from most of the community that voted.


1. Many cities do not have the proper equipment to count the ballots.
Some voting machines are only programmed to count the number of votes for each candidate and cannot reallocate votes, according to TwinCities.com. This would mean purchasing new voting machines, an additional expense to communities.

2. It’s confusing.
A ticket where electors vote for only one candidate is pretty straightforward. Voting for the same position three times and having to transfer votes complicates the process. Spur noted that in San Francisco, 1.2 percent of ballots in 2011 had errors and could not be counted. This is more errors than normal ballots typically obtain.

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3. Elections for multiple positions become complex.
While it is possible to perform ranked-choice voting elections when more than one position is up for grabs, it involves setting a threshold for candidates to obtain, complicating the process. Additionally, FairVote reported, candidates reaching the threshold would have their excess votes transferred to voters’ second choices. The website, however, does not describe how excess electors are determined, providing certain voters more of a say in an election by voting for their favorite candidate as well as their second-choice politician.

4. Voters need to know their stuff.
With ranked-choice voting, electors have to be able to list all the candidates in order of their preference. This requires extensive research, especially in less prominent races, something many voters do not take the time to do.

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A growing trend in cities has been using ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, for local elections as they weigh the pros and cons of different modes of voting.
ranked-choice voting, pros and cons
Friday, 03 July 2015 04:19 PM
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