The winner-take-all election systems most widely used in the U.S. today do not reliably elect the officials that are supported by a majority of the people and pit natural allies against each other due to vote splitting. A number of alternative systems do a better job. Two such voting systems in the news lately are STAR Voting and Ranked Choice or Instant Run-off Voting, which both are being implemented in various locations at various levels across the country. Supporters claim benefits such as reducing negative campaigning, reducing the cost of elections, better representing the actual vote of the people, supporting a multiple-party system, and reducing the impact of gerrymandering, among others.
This blog post is a compilation of resources and news on alternative voting systems that have promise to improve democracy and proportional representation. Look for additions to this post in the future. Please suggest references we should include. Please also suggest other topics you would like to see us compile references for.
In Washington State: Local Options Bill, HB2746
February 2018 News: Unfortunately HB2746 did not pass out of committee by the February 2 cutoff. More.
Local Options Bill, HB2746 would have provided options for local governments to adopt alternative voting procedures.
- League of Women Voter’s Support:
- LWVWA testified in support of the bill based on our study, An Evaluation of Major Election Methods.
- VIDEO: City Inside Out give background on election reform efforts in the legislature, including the Local Options Bill:
- A State Bill to Let Washington Localities Choose a Better Voting System, by Sightline Institute
Background on Election Methods
- Alternative Voting Systems, by National Conference of State Legislatures
- Sightline’s Guide to Methods for Electing Legislative Bodies, by Sightline Institute
- For an in-depth look refer to: Electoral System Design: The New International IDEA Handbook, by Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
About Ranked Choice or Instant Run-Off Voting
With ranked choice voting, voters can rank as many candidates on the ballot as they want in order of choice. Ballots are initially counted for each elector’s top choice. If a candidate secures more than half of these votes, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate in last place is eliminated and removed from consideration. The top remaining choices on all the ballots are then counted again. This process repeats until one candidate is the top remaining choice of a majority of the voters. When the field is reduced to two, it has become an “instant runoff” that allows a comparison of the top two candidates head-to-head (Wikipedia).
Ranked choice voting eliminates the “spoiler” effect in elections. If a voter’s first pick gets eliminated, their vote is then cast for their second choice. If their second choice is eliminated, then their third choice gets their vote, and so on, until their vote is finally cast for one of the two candidates in the instant runoff. Minor parties on the left, such as the Green Party and the Socialist Party, do not siphon votes away from the Democratic party, with a similar impact on the right.
- Benefits of Ranked Choice Instant Run Off Voting, http://www.fairvote.org/rcv#rcvbenefits
- Promotes majority support
- Discourages negative campaigning
- Provides more choice for voters
- Minimizes strategic voting
- Mitigates impact of money in politics
- Saves money when replacing primaries or runoffs
- Promotes reflective representation
- Where is ranked choice used? Interactive Map by Fair Vote
- Resources from Minnesota’s ranked-choice mayors race:
- VIDEO, Great quick video on how it works: How rank-choice voiting works for single-seat elections
- VIDEO: How rank-choice voiting works for multi-seat elections
- VIDEO: Three Examples of Instant Run-Off Voting by SJVoter
- VIDEO, Minneapolis news show with interviews ahead of the ranked choice vote for mayor: Pros and cons of ranked-choice voting by KARE11 TV
- Democrats Could Split the Vote in Washington’s 8th Congressional District Race, But Ranked Choice Voting would avoid an unrepresentative result. by Sightline
About Proportional Representation Voting Methods
Proportional representation is a voting method that ensures the majority view wins a majority of the representation, but also ensures the view or choice of a substantial minority to win some representation. Proportional election methods are sometimes confused with the parliamentary system. However, rather than an election method, the parliamentary system is a form of government in which the executive branch is appointed by the legislature.
- How Proportional Representation Elections Work , Fair Vote
- Single-Member Districts Will Not Solve Portland’s Representation Problems, But proportional representation, with multi-member districts, could. By Sightline
About STAR Voting
- Star Voting: Innovative, New Voting Method Gets First Trial in Oregon
by Mark Frohnmayer in Electoral Reform May 11, 2017
- STAR-Vote: A Secure, Transparent, Auditable, and Reliable Voting System