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We Need Ranked-Choice Voting in the Presidential Primaries

We Need Ranked-Choice Voting in the Presidential Primaries

Adam Eichen

If the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary were held today, the results would be disastrous. That is, at least as far as representative democracy is concerned.

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Wonderful concept.

Now, tell me. How many here really believe the Democratic Party Establishment thinks this is a wonderful idea?


Forget the early Polls and the nonsense spewed by clueless commentators.

Bernie Sanders will prevail because his ideas are what the Country wants.


Interesting, i had not heard of or thought about RCV for apportioning delegates among candidates, using RCV to redistribute the votes of those whose favorite candidates did not get to the threshold.

i’ve only heard of it used in elections that have a single winner, to replace the plurality voting that is used in the USA to determine most election winners.

Seems like a good idea, but i’ll have to think about it!

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It’ll be a rank choice, that’s for sure.

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In my caucuses it has always been this way. After the initial round of moving into sub caucuses the caucus chair declares how many delegates if any each candidate now has to to the then next level of the county convention. People are then free to switch to another candidate. This, I think, is better than doing a ranked choice from the get go, because the way we do it allows a debate in the caucus. It’s better than ranked choice from the get go because it’s totally possible that the candidate with the lowest initial support is the one that others might switch to if they have the choice.

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i guess that’s true. The caucuses are not “instant runoff” where you have to pre-select your ranking, but they do go through a series of re-votes where you can shift your one vote to a surviving candidate. You rank in real-time, with the opportunity to make the case.

If we were a democracy, RCV would be the standard norm for all of our elections.

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A ranked choice primary will be the only consolation each of these wannabe Dems will glean, as they look on in horror when Trump refuses to leave office and cede a peaceful transition of power. I could have been a contender… if only our party hadn’t played political patty-cake with the Republican mobsters over the previous three decades.

With so many contenders in the primaries, some form of ranked-choice voting is needed so that a natural consensus can emerge. With so many excellent choices and wiith the need to get one of them elected, it makes sense for voters to have an opportunity to express second, third, and further choices, thereby insuring that theeir preferences will be reflected in the outcome. The time has come to implement this idea.

Similarly, attention should be given to how the primary debates are conducted. I would like to see it more a discussion of items to be emphasized in the party platform with all participants willing to endorse its final form than an attempt of candidates to knock one another out of contention.

As you already know, PonyBoy, the Green Party US includes Ranked Choice Voting and Proportional Representation in their Platform. Below is their Platform statements on both:


1. Electoral reform.

  1. Enact proportional representation voting systems for legislative seats on municipal, county, state and federal levels. Proportional representation systems provide that people are represented in the proportion their views are held in society and are based on dividing seats proportionally within multi-seat districts, compared to the standard U.S. single-seat, winner-take all districts. Forms of proportional representation include choice voting (candidate-based), party list (party-based) and mixed member voting (combines proportional representation with district representation).

  2. Enact Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) for chief executive offices like mayor, governor and president and other single-seat elections. Under IRV, voters can rank candidates in their order of preference (1,2,3, etc.) IRV ensures that the eventual winner has majority support and allows voters to express their preferences knowing that supporting their favorite candidate will not inadvertently help their least favored candidate. IRV thus frees voters from being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, and saves money by eliminating unnecessary run-off elections.


Thanks Mark for putting this on here for all to see.

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While rank choice voting is not a bad idea, the problem with most RCV or instant run-off voting schemes is how the votes are counted.

In a general election RCV system where candidates are eliminated with each round it does not translate into the rank that the voters choose. And it forces citizens to validate with their vote a candidate they may not find suitable for office in order to have their votes counted in the total to achieve a majority in each round- mandatory lesser evil voting.

For example, in a six candidate election there could be four third party or independent candidates that get 10-15% of the vote each and two current major party candidates that get 20-25%.

The citizens that vote for the the second, third and fourth lowest candidates all choose the candidate that gets the least votes in the general election/first round as their second choice. But that candidate is eliminated for the second round even though a majority would have that candidate as their first and/or second choice.

If none of these candidates gain a majority in subsequent rounds as candidates are eliminated and the citizens that vote for these candidates do not choose one of the remaining candidates because they find them unsuitable for office then their vote is not counted in the total to determine a majority in that round.

So the majority achieved is not a majority of citizens that voted it is only a majority of citizens that voted that find the candidates suitable or have been forced to make a lesser evil choice in order to have their vote counted in that round.

The only way rank choice voting will work properly is to use a non elimination system to count the votes.

If no candidate gets a majority in the general election it goes to a second round- but no candidates are eliminated.

The first choice votes for each candidate are added to the second choice votes for each candidate. If a candidate reaches a majority in this round they win. It is possible that more than one candidate can achieve a majority in this round so the one with the highest majority would win.

If no candidate reaches a majority in round two the process is repeated for round three and subsequent rounds until a majority is achieved.

If no majority is achieved after all rounds the highest plurality wins.

This way citizens only have to validate with their vote candidates they find suitable in order to have their vote counted in the total to achieve a majority in all rounds and citizens don’t have their second, third, etc. choices eliminated in earlier rounds so the way they rank their votes is the way they are counted.

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I haven’t seen this scheme before, but I can tell you it is well known that no scheme does the set of basic things people would want in a multi-party single winner election scheme and which seem like they would be possible but in fact are mathematically impossible (Arrow’s theorem). Is your scheme discussed in the literature? If not, you should ask yourself if it doesn’t have some major downside. People go to a lot of gyrations to rank the different ranked choice ballot counting schemes. I personally don’t have a problem with IRV but I’m open to the discussion of alternates (Condorcet being the most well known I believe). I’m not as keen on non ranked ballot schemes such as score or approval but given webwalk’s comments I should look into score more and check out star.

I was surprised to see two stories on RCV and primaries recently. Maybe we are getting towards critical mindshare which would be fantastic.

In other news, the foxes have decided to allow the hens to vote on which foxes rule the henhouse.