Category Archives: alternative voting systems

Parsons, Penrose, and Carroll: “Pico & Proportional Ranked Choice Voting”

The following is a guest post from G. Michael Parsons (Senior Legal Fellow, FairVote), Drew Penrose (Policy Consultant, FairVote), and Terrance Carroll (Senior Fellow for Voting and Democracy, FairVote):

The California Supreme Court’s decision in Pico Neighborhood Association v. City of Santa Monica last week was a major victory for voting rights, fair representation, and the essential protections provided by a growing number of state voting rights acts (SVRAs) across the country. In this post, we raise three observations about what the decision might mean for SVRA litigation going forward. First, alternative “modified at-large” electoral systems (such as proportional ranked choice voting) may offer the clearest benchmark for establishing liability in future SVRA cases. Second, the Court’s emphasis on “lawful” alternatives contemplates a range of potential changes to a locality’s electoral system, including eliminating staggered elections or moving to multi-member districts. Finally, proportional ranked choice voting offers a uniquely compelling remedy in SVRA cases because it encourages the kind of crossover voting that the Pico decision protects as a means of providing communities of color a “real electoral opportunity” to elect their candidate of choice.

Continue reading Parsons, Penrose, and Carroll: “Pico & Proportional Ranked Choice Voting”
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“The False Promise of Party-Centric Reform”

Seamus Allen:

But what change to pursue? For the vast majority of the public, the end goal is clear: we want a democracy that provides representation for all. To accomplish that, the US needs to adopt some form of proportional representation (PR). How PR is to be achieved, however, is an open question.

In recent months, a conversation has ensued among a group of political scientists and democracy advocates centered around the dichotomy of “party-centric” reform vs. “candidate-centric” reform. There are compelling reasons to believe this dichotomy is a false one, since a number of democracies around the world as well as US states have strong political parties even as voters select individual candidates. Even so, it is worthwhile to examine the political viability of the party-centric approach.  Should this become a guiding philosophy for the reform movement, it ought to be one that allows us to seize this moment and make lasting change. 

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Cal. Supreme Court decides CVRA case

The California Supreme Court is out with an important opinion today in Pico Neighborhood Ass’n v. City of Santa Monica: a ruling on the California Voting Rights Act and some of the ways in which it’s distinct from (and similar to) the federal VRA.

Most of the issues addressed by the court are, I believe, issues of first impression for a state supreme court construing a state voting rights act. That includes whether the Gingles 1 requirement (showing that the minority population is big enough and compact enough to constitute more than half of the voters in a single-member district) applies to the CVRA. (The court’s answer: “no.”)

Disclosure: I served as an expert witness in this case.

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“Sorting Out the Kinks in Ranked-Choice Voting”

Walter Olson, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, has this comment on the Arlington (VA) county board’s recent decision not to use ranked-choice voting in its upcoming general election. He concludes “it’s too soon to pronounce whether Saturday’s announcement represents a lasting setback for proportional-representation reforms like ranked choice voting, or more a passing hiccup.”

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ASU Report on Voter Attitudes about Elections

From the hotbed — no pun intended (sorry Arizonans, I know it’s been sweltering) — of election denialism comes this report by Arizona State’s Center for Independent and Sustainable Democracy. Highlights from the press release:

Arizona voters strongly support requiring high-ranking state and local elections officials to be elected in a nonpartisan manner and take an oath to perform their duties in a nonpartisan fashion ….

In addition, more than 80% of respondents – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents – said they want Arizona to adapt a nonpartisan primary system. However, a bare majority backed ranked-choice voting.

Voters surveyed took a dim view of election officials overseeing decisions that might impact their own elections, along with publicly endorsing and fundraising for other candidates for office ….

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“Another campaign complaint filed against opponents of Alaska ranked choice voting”

Alaska Public Media:

On Monday, Alaskans for Better Elections filed a complaint against former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, a nonprofit that she operates and Alaskans for Honest Elections, which is campaigning to repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska.

The complaint alleges that Tshibaka and her nonprofit, Preserve Democracy, have been lobbying and campaigning without registering with the Alaska Public Offices Commission or submitting regular financial disclosures, something required by law.

The complaint further suggests that Preserve Democracy sent mailers to select voters in the spring Anchorage municipal election without reporting to the commission.

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“Arlington reverses use of ranked-choice voting system for fall elections”


The Arlington County Board declined to move forward Saturday with ranked-choice voting for November’s general election, halting the Northern Virginia suburb’s experiment with the increasingly popular voting system, for now.

Local lawmakers had voted last fall to institute ranked-choice voting in the Democratic primary for two open seats on the board this spring. It was the first publicly-run ranked-choice election in Virginia, offering a highly visible test for a voting system that’s been used in a growing number of races around the country.

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“Column: Think our politics stink? Look north — to Alaska”

Mark Barabak LAT column:

The notion is that by competing en masse not just to finish first but also to be voters’ second choice, successful candidates will have to appeal to a broader segment of the electorate.

As experts recently explained in the Anchorage Daily News, “Encouraging politicians to take more extreme views … [makes] our legislatures increasingly dysfunctional. Instead of meeting in the middle to find solutions both sides can live with, they drive legislators further apart and make it harder to agree.”

The most recent session of the Alaska Legislature proved instructive.

There was less reflexive partisanship and more cooperation across party lines, those experts said, attributing the change to the state’s revamped voting system. They cited the budget lawmakers passed and, in particular, the agreed-upon disbursements from the state’s Permanent Fund, an account that pays residents annual dividends from Alaska’s oil wealth.

Writing in the Anchorage paper, political scientists Glenn Wright, David Lublin and Benjamin Reilly noted the dividend was smaller than many Republicans would have liked, but that left more money for education and programs that others preferred.

“A classic political compromise,” they called it, suggesting that “rather than spending their time bashing the other party,” lawmakers chosen under the new system reached across the aisle and bargained to reach a consensus.

Which, ideally, is how legislating works.

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“A group offered cities money to opt in to ranked choice voting. State elections office warns accepting that is likely illegal”

In response to a question at a city council meeting, an advocacy organization’s representative apparently noted that one county’s implementation of RCV might cost an extra $36,000 for software licensing, ballot design, and the like … and that the organization would be willing to cover the gap.  It’s not exactly an inducement to participate, but likely still violates Utah’s new law against accepting private donations.  (And the advocate, saying she wasn’t aware of the law, has since backed off of the suggestion.)

I think it’s likely that the laws restricting private funding are going to end up with more complicated impacts than the legislators have foreseen, and not in ways that help local officials administer elections.

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“Mathematical Flaws in Ranked Choice Voting Are Rare but Real”

That’s the title of this new piece, accompanying this new paper (with a title that I prefer, not that anyone’s asking: “An Examination of Ranked Choice Voting in the United States, 2004-2022”).

The authors identify the “primary value of the article” in summarizing much of the empirical research on real-world RCV elections of the last 18 years; I agree with the value of that work.  (Though a caveat about hasty conclusions: the article only examines RCV elections in which there wasn’t a first-round majority winner, which is not the same as all RCV elections.)  The theoretical discussion will be largely familiar to anyone already familiar with Arrow’s impossibility theorem or social choice theory (or discussions about practical impacts like ballot exhaustion). 

As for the title of the accompanying blog post, I’d suggest considering it light of a likely alternative: “Mathematical Flaws in Plurality Voting Are Frequent and Real.”

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Ranked choice on the menu

There must be something in the water today. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board decries a “two-party system in a one-party town,” in advocating a switch from splintered partisan primaries to a nonpartisan primary with ranked-choice voting.

Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner makes a pitch for ranked-choice in the Illinois presidential primary.

The Idaho Capital Sun reports on a potential new ballot initiative filed today, providing for open primaries and ranked-choice voting in the general election. (also here from the Idaho Statesman)

MinnPost tracks the “progress” of a statewide ranked choice bill.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a piece on potential dueling ballot proposals: one seeking to prohibit ranked-choice and approval voting, and another seeking approval for approval voting.

And while I’m at it, I’d missed Walter Olson a few days ago, explaining “Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Fear Ranked Choice Voting.”

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