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The Blade: Reject ranked-choice voting in Ohio
Guest Author • Dec 02, 2023

Americans want elections where it’s easy to vote, hard to cheat, and results are trustworthy. The Ohio legislature is considering a bill that meets all three of these objectives. It would prohibit the use of a strange new election system, known as ranked-choice voting (or RCV), from being used in Ohio elections.

The RCV election process isn’t new. It was invented in the 1870s and adopted by some American cities early in the 20th century. All of them repealed it. More recently it’s been used in other cities and counties, and statewide in Alaska and Maine, but again many places that have tried it have switched back to normal elections.

In an RCV election, voters can rank a number of candidates according to their preference. This number varies: in Minneapolis, voters can rank up to three; in Alaska and New York City, they can rank five; and in Maine, voters can rank as many candidates as are in a race. Counting RCV ballots is unlike any normal election process — unless one candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes. In that case, RCV is irrelevant and that candidate wins. Otherwise, a process of adjusting and retabulating the votes begins and is repeated as many times as necessary to arrive at a winner under RCV rules.

When no candidate has a majority of first-preference votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. Ballots where an eliminated candidate was ranked first are now either adjusted or discarded. If there is a next-ranked candidate, that candidate is “moved up” and counted in the next round. If the voter did not rank another candidate, the ballot is considered “exhausted” and is eliminated.

In an election with two candidates, RCV never matters because one candidate will always have a majority in the first count. Add a third candidate, and RCV may require a second round of adjusting and counting. Add more candidates, and more rounds may be required. In New York City, the Democratic Party primary for mayor in 2021 included thirteen candidates and went through eight rounds of tabulation. The election for mayor of Oakland in 2022 had 10 candidates and required nine rounds.

The simple fact is that RCV makes it harder to vote. Even supporters admit that massive public education campaigns are necessary to help voters navigate their strange new process. RCV ballots are much longer than nor-mal ballots, sometimes requiring many additional sheets of paper. In each race, voters are asked to fill out more bubbles or boxes or lines. Candidates are listed in rows, preferences are listed in columns. It is all spread across the page, and includes more fine print and instructions than in a normal election.

Read the full op-ed on The Blade's website.