Wasteful runoff elections are the real March Madness

by on March 20, 2023

Phoenix Bolsters Case for RCV

On Tuesday, Phoenix, AZ held runoff elections for its 6th and 8th City Council Districts – five months after the November general election. That means duplicative costs to taxpayers in the nation’s fifth-largest city, another half year of candidate campaigning, and worst of all: a huge decline in turnout. When all the votes are counted, participation could be cut in half! One candidate said she hoped turnout in the runoff would crack 15%.

In the 8th District, Kesha Hodge Washington came in second in November, and appears to have won the runoff — but there’s a catch. Both candidates are likely to have fewer votes in the runoff than they did in the initial election! That means the candidate who got the most votes in this process, Carlos Garcia, likely won’t be the winner.

With ranked choice voting, the problems inherent with runoffs are eliminated. The cost is lower, participation is higher, and candidates can save anywhere from thousands to tens of millions on their campaigns. That helps explain why, on March 7, two more cities passed RCV for all their big elections – Redondo Beach (CA) and Burlington (VT).

It’s not just Phoenix… There is also growing interest in ranked choice voting in major cities like Denver, Philadelphia, and Chicago. RCV is taking American cities by storm!

A NEW video on proportional ranked choice voting

This week, Americans of all political persuasions are predicting all 63 games of a college basketball tournament – some of them two times over! There are 9.2 quintillion potential bracket combinations – it can seem downright complicated at times!

Thankfully, once they’re done, they can relax and learn about something much simpler: ranked choice voting (RCV). This improvement to our elections takes just a few minutes to master, but has a huge impact for fair representation.

This week, we’re excited to share a brand-new video about how the proportional form of ranked choice voting works and why we need it for our elections. Check it out!

YouTube video embed

Ranked choice voting at the Oscars

This month is also special because it offers the most high-profile annual demonstration of ranked choice voting outside politics itself: the Academy Awards. The Academy has used ranked choice to pick its nominees for decades. They expanded the system to pick the Best Picture winner in 2009 when the category grew to 10 nominees, because they needed an efficient way to identify a consensus winner in a crowded field.

RCV has lived up to its promise again and again for selecting a Best Picture that best represents what the Academy’s voters want – powerful films as different as Nomadland and The King’s Speech, or Moonlight and The Artist. This year, enter Everything Everywhere All at Once – a consensus powerhouse which swept the Oscars, winning in marquee categories like Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay in addition to Best Picture. The film has received acclaim for its groundbreaking script, diverse cast, and award-winning directing – it’s clear that many Academy members passionately support it, and nearly all members of the Academy can find something about it they like. See Rob Richie’s RealClearPolitics commentary from last week for a deeper-dive analysis; FairVote staff did a string of radio shows and podcasts on the topics as well, including WGN and WLS in Chicago and Save Democracy AZ.

Shining light on our Dubious Monopoly

Last month, our research team released its Dubious Democracy and Monopoly Politics reports, with some excellent coverage in publications like Politico, USA Today, and the Washington Post.

In Monopoly Politics, we project the outcomes of every congressional race in the country, two years before they happen and without knowing who the candidates will be. That’s possible because increasingly, partisanship is the only factor that matters in election outcomes, and gerrymandering has become so extreme that voters have little chance of changing the outcome. Next year, we expect just 25 House seats to be highly competitive, compared to 369 that appear to be completely safe for one party.

In Dubious Democracy, we go state-by-state to determine where voters have the strongest voice in who represents them, using key factors like voter turnout and candidates’ margins of victory. The numbers are startling: just 24% of the voting age population voted for a winning candidate in the 2022 House elections, meaning a full ¾ of us aren’t represented in the results.

Thankfully, we already know the way to repair our democracy: the Fair Representation Act (FRA) would give better choices and a stronger voice to every American, no matter where we live or how much operatives try to gerrymander the lines. There are urban Republicans, rural Democrats, and independents everywhere waiting to be heard in Congress, and the FRA would empower them.

Thank you for your support. With your help, we can pass the FRA and move away from the problems inherent in winner-take-all elections.

Filed under: National Politics