How Ranked Choice Voting Helps

New York City just used ranked choice voting in its 2021 Mayoral Primaries. This means that voters, instead of supporting one candidate on their ballot, were able, but not required to, rank their top five candidates. A candidate wins once they have received at least 50% of votes. Until this happens, the last place candidate is eliminated from the running and votes are redistributed among the eligible candidates. The method is already used in Alaska and Maine for presidential and state elections and is also used in various local elections across the country.

The ranked choice voting method has been criticized for its complexity. The new ballots could possibly confuse voters and cause them to make more mistakes. This style is also more likely to cause counting errors because it is difficult to redistribute the ranked votes, as opposed to the more traditional “one vote for one candidate” method which is seen as more straightforward. However, the benefits of ranked choice voting outweigh its temporary disadvantages.

For those who face challenges getting to the polls, ranked choice voting makes voting more accessible. If at the end of the election, no candidate receives a majority of votes, the ranked choice method’s redistribution of votes would account for that. Voters would not have to revisit the polls to cast a new vote. Fairvote highlights that this is especially beneficial to voters who are overseas or in the military who would require more ballots sent to them in the event of a runoff. 

Unnecessary animosity between candidates would be strongly discouraged using this method, as candidates would need to appeal to and address the majority of voters that they would be representing, as opposed to alienating them. 

Ideologically, it would also allow for voters to voice support for many candidates that reflect their own beliefs rather than forcing them to align with one. People can vote according to their personal values and stray away from partisan politics. Wired explains that ranked choice voting can create more space for third-party representation because the method allows these candidates “a window of opportunity as everyone’s third choice.” 

Voters will continue to feel represented even if their first-choice candidate is eliminated because they still receive input on the results of the election through their backup choices. No matter who receives the majority of votes, all voters still have the opportunity to be heard.


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