Advantages of Ranked-Choice Voting

September 1, 2023

Change is inevitable. By embracing change, organizations can generate new ideas, improve products or services, and find ways to stay relevant. Voting is a crucial mechanism to facilitate change in organizations. It provides a democratic and fair method to ensure that diverse perspectives and voices are heard to fuel innovation and positive change.

Ranked-choice voting, or instant-runoff voting, is gaining popularity in various election and organizational decision-making processes. 

What is ranked-choice voting? Essentially, it is a voting system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference rather than just voting for a single candidate. If no candidate has a majority of votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. The votes from the eliminated candidate are then redistributed according to the second preference indicated on those ballots.

Ranked-Choice Voting Benefits 

This system ensures that winning candidates have broad support among voters. Here are some specific benefits of the ranked-choice system:

The Candidate with the Broadest Support Wins

In a traditional voting system, a candidate can win with less than 50% of the votes if they have more votes than any other single candidate. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they are the preferred choice of most voters.

For example, consider an election with three candidates: A, B, and C. A gets 40% of the votes, B gets 35%, and C gets 25%. A wins, even though 60% of voters preferred someone else. 

This issue is resolved with the ranked-choice system because votes from the least favorite candidates are redistributed until someone has a majority (more than 50% of the votes). If C is eliminated and most of their votes go to B as a second choice, B may end up with more than 50% of the total. In this scenario, B wins the election–not A.

This system ensures that the elected candidate enjoys a broad support base, enhancing their legitimacy. 

Prevents Vote Splitting 

Vote splitting occurs when two or more similar candidates divide support among voters, potentially allowing a less popular candidate to win. Say there are two very similar candidates (A and B) and a controversial candidate C. Supporters of A and B might split their votes between the two, allowing C to win with a plurality, even though A or B might have won if the other hadn't been in the race.

Vote splitting is an issue in many voting systems because it can lead to an outcome that doesn't accurately reflect the choice of the majority of voters. It can discourage similar candidates from running in the same election and can potentially lead to strategic voting, where voters don't vote for their actual preferred candidate but for the one who is perceived to have a better chance of winning.

Discourages Smear Tactics and Decreases Polarization

During campaigns, candidates may adopt negative or aggressive tactics to try and discredit their opponents. The goal is to dissuade voters from choosing the other candidate and to consolidate support behind themselves. This often leads to divisive and polarizing campaigns, focusing less on issues and more on personal attacks or smear tactics.

With ranked-choice voting, candidates aren't just vying for the first-place votes–they also want to be the second or even third choice of as many voters as possible. Candidates need to appeal broadly to supporters of other candidates to convince those second and third-choice votes to vote for them. 

It's no longer beneficial to ‘go scorched earth’ on opponents. Candidates are encouraged to remain civil, focus on the issues, and find common ground with their opponents. This can lead to more substantive, issue-focused campaigns, and an overall more positive election atmosphere.

Eliminates the Need for Subsequent Elections

In most cases, a candidate needs to receive more than half of all votes to win. If nobody reaches this threshold (50% plus one vote), a second election known as a runoff must be conducted. The purpose of a runoff is to make sure the winner has majority support from the voters, not just the largest group of votes compared to the other candidates. A ranked-choice election prevents the need for another election, avoiding additional expenses.

Conducting elections can be expensive. There are costs for administration, security, staff, and materials, not to mention the cost of running campaigns for the candidates. 

More often than not, fewer voters turn out for runoff elections due to voter fatigue or simply because people are busy. Ranked-choice election addresses these issues up front by effectively combining the initial election and potential runoff into a single event.

Ask the Election Experts

While ranked-choice voting offers numerous benefits, it can sometimes be a complex process to manage. ElectionBuddy’s cloud-based platform can help. With our proven experience in running secure, democratic elections in more than 194 countries, we're ready to simplify any election process. Results are tallied instantly while ensuring voter confidentiality!

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