Tag Archives: polarization

“Does Ranked Choice Voting Promote Legislative Bipartisanship? Using Maine as a Policy Laboratory”

Rachel Hutchinson of FairVote and Ben Reilly of the East-West Center have posted this new paper on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

Political polarization in the United States has increased dramatically, hampering the functioning of American government. Some scholars attribute this dynamic to the use of plurality elections and posit that a ranked choice voting (RCV) system may promote greater bipartisanship. Maine’s 2016 adoption of RCV presents an early opportunity to test this theory on congressional races. Using comparative analysis, we show that bipartisan cosponsorship increased after the adoption of RCV in Maine’s swing House district but not in its safe district. These results, along with some anecdotal evidence from Alaska, which introduced RCV in 2021, provide an early suggestion that RCV may be more likely to prompt bipartisanship in competitive races than in safe seats. RCV would need to be implemented in more U.S. states and for a longer time to confirm its effectiveness in cultivating bipartisanship, and may work best in combination with other electoral and procedural reforms.

I very much look forward to reading this as it addresses an important question about the capacity of RCV to redress the problems of governance (which Rick Pildes has highlighted) associated with polarization (and fragmentation).

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Party v. Public Opinion: The Remnants of a Politics Past

These days when a partisan official chooses to break with the party to represent the interests of his constituents it really is news. Last week, Merv Riepe, a Republican State Senator in Nebraska cast the vote that blocked the passage of a near-total abortion ban in the state. According to the Washington Post, a recent poll of Nebraskans found “54 percent of people in Nebraska believed abortion should be legal in most or all cases” while “[j]ust 11 percent said all abortions should be banned.” The Washington Post suggests “Riepe’s vote reflects a growing realization among some Republicans that staking out extreme positions on abortion might be politically perilous.” It is possible, but it is more likely that it is a quirk, the remnants of a politics past–the vote of an 80-year legislator who keeps a small trinket “Do hard things” and represents a swing district in Nebraska.

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