The number of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination next year could smash all records. But such a large field also means that most voters will likely end up disappointed because their preferred candidate is eliminated. Is an election where most people’s preferred candidate loses a good thing?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) could help fix that problem.
San Francisco has used RCV — also known as instant runoff voting — in local elections since 2006, and the system decided a 2018 congressional election in Maine. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig’s group, Equal Citizens, is proposing the use of RCV in presidential primaries in 2020.
Adam Eichen, a self-described democracy wonk, is a communications strategist for Equal Citizens. In this podcast, Eichen and Peter B. Collins discuss the strengths and weaknesses of RCV, and the steps required to implement it — starting in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary state.
With a roster featuring as many as 20 candidates, voters whose first-choice candidate is eliminated would still influence the outcome with their second and third selections.
One benefit of RCV is that it encourages candidates — aware that they might need second- and third-choice votes — to refrain from using negative ads or personal attacks against their opponents.
Deciding the winner of an RCV election can take weeks, a reality that might frustrate TV watchers, online influencers, and media executives eager for conclusive results on election night. Eichen and Collins also discuss the pros and cons of eliminating one-on-one runoffs, which usually attract lower voter turnout.
Adam Eichen is co-author, with Frances Moore Lappé, of Daring Democracy. You can read the opinion piece about RCV that he co-wrote here. A crowded 2020 presidential primary field calls for ranked choice voting.