The Rise of Ranked-Choice Voting

Louis Jacobson | July 2, 2020


— 2020 has been a banner year for ranked-choice voting.

— Several Democratic primary and caucus contests used the system, which asks voters to rank their choice and forces winners to achieve majority support, albeit through votes from those who did not pick them first on their ballot.

— Democrats seem more open to ranked-choice voting than Republicans.

The proliferation of ranked-choice voting

With everything else that’s going on, you may not have noticed, but 2020 has been something of a landmark year for ranked-choice voting — the system that allows voters to rank their favored candidates in descending order, with their vote re-allocated to their next choice if their top choice is eliminated.

The system was used for the first time, seemingly without a hitch, in four Democratic presidential nominating contests: Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming. It was also used for early voting in the Nevada caucuses.

RCV, as it is known, is now used widely in Maine. Currently, ranked-choice voting is used in U.S. House and Senate races and in gubernatorial primaries, but not in races for the state legislature or the general election for governor. It’s slated to be used for the state’s upcoming voting in the 2020 presidential election, though in June, the state GOP submitted more signatures than required to set a referendum in November that would keep ranked-choice voting from being used in this year’s presidential contest.