More Legal Challenges to Ranked-Choice Voting

Ever since Maine voters approved the use of ranked-choice voting, the system has been under legal attack. Here’s a story about the latest lawsuit.

The Fulcrum:

The latest suit argues that allowing ranked-choice voting in this fall would deny many voters full participation in the election. The argument is based largely on a study of the 2018 elections by Nolan McCarty, a Princeton University professor.

The study claims many voters were hurt because they did not understand how ranked-choice voting works and did not choose and rank enough candidates.

So, the argument goes, after the first round of ballot counting if no candidate has a majority, then the candidate receiving the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the second choice of those voters is applied in the second round of counting. (That’s how Golden won despite trailing in the initial count.)

But if the voter did not make a second or subsequent selection, then their ballot is “exhausted” and, in effect, does not count, the suit argues.

The Ninth Circuit already rejected this argument in Dudum v. Arntz
640 F.3d 1098 (9th Cir. 2011). Of course, in the more common system in which each voter casts a single vote, the votes of all those voting for the losing candidate “do not count” either. Or if a voter chooses not to vote in a particular race, their ballot is also “exhausted” for that race.

Alaska and Massachusetts have ranked-choice voting on the ballot this fall. For a legal defense of ranked-choice voting against these attacks, see this article of mine, co-authored with Michael Parsons, titled The Legality of Ranked-Choice Voting.

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