Federal, Minnesota, Maine and Colorado Report

Voter Choice Act Provides $40 Million to Help State and Local Governments that Choose to Adopt Ranked Choice Voting

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), along with Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Angus King (I-ME), reintroduced the Voter Choice Act to boost adoption of a ranked choice voting (RCV) model for elections, also known as an “instant runoff.” The Voter Choice Act provides $40 million in federal grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for local and state governments that choose to adopt RCV.

“Our democracy is at a crossroads. Amid historic division and partisan rancor, we must take meaningful action to improve our electoral system from the ground up,” said Phillips. “That is why, as cities, states, and even political parties – both red and blue – have recognized, we need ranked choice voting. RCV is simple, empowers voters, and rewards candidates who broaden support beyond their base. The Voter Choice Act provides financial resources and technical assistance to communities seeking to adopt RCV without imposing a mandate on communities not yet ready for change.”

“Partisanship is imperiling our democracy and impeding progress, and we need creative reforms to make government work again for the American people,” said Bennet. “I believe ranked choice voting can improve our elections by giving voters more choices, discouraging slash-and-burn politics, and rewarding candidates who appeal to a broad majority of voters. Our bill supports states and local governments that choose to adopt this promising reform.”

“Ranked Choice Voting is an opportunity to incentivize candidates – and as a result, elected officials – to build consensus rather than exploit divisions, better reflecting the will of the American people,” said King. “The process is, in essence, an instant runoff that allows the priorities of voters to be more accurately captured on Election Day without the added expense to taxpayers of a completely new tally. Our bill will provide logistical support to the state and local governments that choose to adopt Ranked Choice Voting, allowing them to make the choice that will best serve their citizens.”

In most U.S. elections today, the candidate with the most votes wins. Under this system, a candidate can win even if they receive far less than a majority of all votes cast. Moreover, voters supporting third parties can inadvertently hand victory to candidates with views diametrically opposed to their own. This can make elections less representative of the voters and discourage political competition.

Instead of voting for a single candidate, RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate earns a majority after counting first choices, the last-place candidate is eliminated. Voters for the eliminated candidate then have their ballot count for their next choice. The process repeats until one candidate earns a majority. Early evidence suggests that, by rewarding candidates for appealing to a broad swath of voters, RCV can discourage extreme partisanship, incent a greater focus on substantive issues, and ensure that election winners better reflect the views of most voters.

RCV is the fastest-growing election reform in America. According to FairVote, 22 jurisdictions used RCV in their most recent elections and another 20 will use it for the first time this November. Five cities in Minnesota — St. Paul, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, and Bloomington — will use RCV for their mayoral and council races in 2021.

Today, jurisdictions or political parties in 29 states have adopted some form of RCV for their elections:

  • RCV used for statewide and presidential elections: Alaska and Maine
  • RCV used for 2020 presidential primaries: Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, and Wyoming
  • RCV used for local elections: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont
  • RCV used for military & overseas voting: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina,
  • RCV used for party elections: Texas and Virginia

The bill text is available HERE.

“The Voter Choice Act will help scale the fastest-growing election reform in the country. Every community deserves the opportunity to try ranked choice voting elections, and the Voter Choice Act lowers the barrier to participation,” said Rob Ritchie, President and CEO of FairVote.

“I applaud the leadership of Congressman Phillips and Senators Bennet and King in supporting the movement for Ranked Choice Voting as it builds across the country,” said FairVote Minnesota Executive Director Jeanne Massey. “In Minnesota and in a growing number of jurisdictions, we are seeing the power of Ranked Choice Voting to incentivize more positive, constructive, and inclusive elections. RCV rewards candidates to go beyond their base and build broad coalitions of support, which is key to depolarizing our politics and strengthening our democracy. We are grateful to Congressman Phillips and Senators Bennet and King for leading our democracy forward with legislation that will help accelerate this promising reform at the local and state level.”

“Ranked Choice Voting is one of the most promising reform options for reducing our crippling levels of political polarization in the United States.  As more and more American cities (and now states) adopt RCV, voters are finding that they like its democratic features. RCV offers voters more choice, more voice, less negative campaigns, and more broadly appealing outcomes, since winners must ultimately win support from a majority of voters. By allocating federal funds to help state and local governments with the transition to RCV, the Voter Choice Act would make an important contribution to the repair and renewal of American democracy,” said Larry Diamond, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Stanford University.

“At a time when zero-sum hyper-partisanship is breaking American democracy, ranked-choice voting offers a rare glimmer of hope. It’s a proven way to build more consensus-oriented politics and incentivize positive-sum problem-solving. And perhaps most important, it gives voters more choices and strengthens competition in our democracy. The Voter Choice Act of 2020 is a tremendous step forward in repairing our fractured democracy,” said Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow, New America.

“The Voter Choice Act is an essential data-driven strategy to advance women’s representation and leadership in politics. Women are getting elected at higher rates in jurisdictions with Ranked Choice Voting because more women run, split votes among women candidates are eliminated, campaigns are more affordable and less negative, and those elected have a true mandate to govern — all building blocks for a 21st century democracy,” said Cynthia Richie Terrell, founder and CEO of RepresentWomen.

“Ranked choice voting is a pro-voter policy that can help restore confidence in our elections by making candidates more responsive to their constituents and by giving voters a larger voice at the ballot box,” said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. “We’ve seen communities across New Mexico embrace ranked-choice voting as a positive step that promotes consensus building over political division in our elections and I’m excited to see this bill reintroduced this year.”

“The Voter Choice Act provides financial support for local and state governments to expand options and choice for voters. In primary elections and other elections where there are numerous candidates running, ranked choice voting ensures that voters can prioritize their selections. Further, more Americans are voting before Election Day than ever before and especially in presidential primaries where candidates start to drop out before Election Day, ranked choice voting ensures the voters’ preferences are reflected in the counting process. Simply put, the VCA is a positive step forward in the movement to put voters first and ensure all voices are heard in the voting process,” said Amber McReynolds, Democracy and Voting Innovator, former Colorado election officials and co-author of When Women Vote.

“I applaud the leadership of Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Angus King, and Congressman Dean Phillips in introducing the Voter Choice Act to assist local and state governments transitioning to Rank Choice Voting (RCV). For the past quarter of a century, extreme partisanship and political polarization in our political system have too often led to government paralysis and a national consensus that government no longer works at the federal level. To restore public confidence and make our government work again, we must maximize citizen participation in our elections and encourage elected officials to truly represent the interests of all their constituents. RCV enables voters to support their first choice without the risk of inadvertently helping elect their last choice and thereby discourages negative campaigning by rewarding candidates who through consensus-building become the second choice for supporters of their opponents. RCV has worked well in more than a dozen municipalities across the country, and has recently been adopted by the state of Maine and New York City. By helping local and state governments transition to RCV, The Voter Choice Act would help provide more evidence-based research to guide other jurisdictions as they consider structural and systemic electoral reforms to strengthen American democracy,” said Ralph G. Neas, former CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Senior Counsel on Voting Rights to The Century Foundation.

“Senator Bennet is standing up for all voters by introducing the Voter Choice Act. Our current system limits competition and choice. In towns that use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), voters are free to cast their ballots for candidates they love the most, without fear of helping to elect candidates they like the least. The results are crystal clear: voters are heard, and they know it. Democrats, Republicans, minor party, and unaffiliated voters agree that RCV is a common-sense way to strengthen democracy and put more power in the hands of the voters. The Voter Choice Act will help more places opt to use RCV. RCV for Colorado is grateful to Senator Bennet for supporting the political freedom that every American deserves,” said Linda Templin, Executive Director for RCV for Colorado.

“Our current plurality voting method is the worst of all systems because it discourages participation and can result in misrepresentations of the electorate when there are more than two candidates vying for the same office. Fortunately, we have an alternative method with Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting. RCV would provide opportunities for more candidates to freely run for office while encouraging positive yet competitive campaigns where the winner is chosen by a majority of the voters. Local communities like Broomfield want to be on the front lines of this implementation, and in order to be successful in our early adoption, it is imperative there is assistance from the state and national levels of government,” said Deven Shaff, City and County of Broomfield Councilmember.

“Stand Up Republic Colorado and its over three thousand supporters know that when given the opportunity, voters overwhelmingly choose ranked choice voting. The VCA will afford that opportunity to more communities by reducing barriers to funding, an investment in the democratic institutions of our republic that we can all be proud of,” said Justin Kurth, Colorado State Leader, Stand Up Republic.

“I have been Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections since 2005 and previously for 12 years served as a commissioner on the New York City Board of Elections. I support ranked choice voting and am encouraged by how it worked in this year’s New York City primary elections. I urge enactment of the Voter’s Choice Act as a sensible means to help states and cities in that important transition period when they must adapt their voting equipment and procedures and introduce a new method of voting to their voters,” said Doug Kellner, co-chair of the NY State Board of Elections.

“The Voter Choice Act provides needed support for local cities to implement rank choice voting. Instead of voting for a single candidate, RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This is a common sense reform that would empower localities to have a more representative voting system,” said Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland, CA.