Ranked Choice Voting Is Simple And Good For Democracy - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Sandy Ma

Sandy Ma is executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, a nonpartisan democracy organization focused on creating an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest and not special interests. Common Cause Hawaii is dedicated to holding power accountable.

Ranked choice voting is a simple election reform that permits voters to rank all candidates in a particular race from favorite to least favorite. It’s just that simple.

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Even though it is simple, RCV has many positive benefits. Voters, instead of having to choose only one candidate to vote for, will always get to vote for their favorite candidates, even if the candidates do not have a good chance of winning.

Voters, under the RCV system, will no longer have to feel like there is a predetermined winner — typically the most well-connected or well-funded.

Under the RCV system, voters do not have to feel like they’re choosing the lesser of two evils. With RCV, voters’ choices are not limited; voters will be able to rank in order of preference their candidates for a particular office.

Under RCV, if a candidate receives a majority (50% + 1) of votes, the candidate is declared the winner. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first-choice rankings is eliminated.

If a voter’s favorite candidate is eliminated, the voter’s vote (for the eliminated candidate) is instantly counted for the voter’s second choice candidate, ensuring that a vote is always respected, honored, and counted. This repeats until one candidate reaches a majority and is declared the winner. It’s just that simple.

Fashionable heals bedecked voter as she casts her ballot at Kahaluu Elementary School. 8 nov 2016 9:54am.
Will the Hawaii Legislature approve ranked choice voting for certain races? It should. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016

A voter does not have to rank candidates, if a voter does not want, under RCV. A voter is free just to select only one candidate and leave the other rankings blank. A voter, however, should not select multiple candidates for the same ranking, should not skip rankings, and should not select one candidate for multiple rankings. It’s just that simple.

RCV is not a novel voting system. It has been used worldwide — Australia for more than 100 years and more recently in New Zealand and Ireland. RCV will be used in 55 cities, counties, and states across the nation in the next election. It is time for Hawaii to adopt RCV.

Critics Wrong

Many reasons have been provided as to why we cannot use RCV in Hawaii. Chief among them is that RCV is too complex and confusing for Hawaii’s voters to understand.

This is simply not true and demeans Hawaii voters. Exit polls conducted by Edison Research of the recent New York City RCV primary showed that 95% of the people thought the RCV ballot was “simple to complete.”

Another common refrain against RCV is that it will harm a particular party. Such an argument is contrary to democratic principles and ideals and showcases what is wrong with our politics today.

Candidates should represent their constituents and not their parties and certainly not special interests. The fact is RCV will benefit the people, which is what being a public servant is truly about.

Further, the argument that RCV will harm a political party is factually wrong. The Marist Poll of the New York City RCV primary showed that RCV was ideologically neutral and benefited both parties. The truth is that RCV has been adopted in red and blue jurisdictions.

Further, according to the Marist Poll, New York City’s RCV primary demonstrated that “RCV boosted voter turnout and brought more diverse and young voters to the polls … reduced so-called ‘wasted’ votes (votes for candidates with little chance of winning outright) and brought more representation from across the five boroughs.”

In Hawaii, where low voter turnout is a perennial issue, RCV may be the solution.

Ranked choice voting has been adopted in red and blue jurisdictions.

The time is now for RCV in Hawaii. There is a good RCV bill that is still alive at the end of this 2022 legislative session.

Senate Bill 2162 will establish RCV in Hawaii for special federal elections and special elections of vacant county council seats. While it is narrow in scope, it will allow the people of Hawaii to become used to the RCV concept and provide time for our elections officials to educate the public on RCV.

Let us pass SB 2162 for more voter choice and more substantive campaigns focused on voter needs versus special interests. There are no valid reasons not to adopt SB 2162. Our democracy will benefit from ranked choice voting. The time is now for RCV SB 2162.

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About the Author

Sandy Ma

Sandy Ma is executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, a nonpartisan democracy organization focused on creating an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest and not special interests. Common Cause Hawaii is dedicated to holding power accountable.

Latest Comments (0)

Hawaii, we can totally do this and totally got this. We can totally join the 21st century in terms of technology. To think otherwise is to sell yourself short. We should not do that to ourselves. We should have confidence in our ability to get stuff done.

NoFreedomWithoutObligations · 11 months ago

Absolutely for Ranked Choice here in Hawai`i. This is about the right for people to choose any and as many candidates as they want and not be called a "spoiler". It should have been standardized as the voting method in all primary and general elections years ago.

chunmeista · 11 months ago

Great article, mahalo.Based on the IT inadequacies of so many other state departments I'd say this is likely the biggest obstacle, rather than RCV's complexity. Pushback from those who don't want to lose their current entrenched inroads and power would also be a major force to contend with.But I say "go for it". Things need to change, and we're not seeing what's needed being done by those now in power. We need a way to get some new names & faces into the mix that are committed to implementing the needed changes.

KeepingItReal · 11 months ago

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