Some towns are looking into using ranked choice voting for local elections, and we’ve had inquiries whether the League has a position that covers ranked choice voting, particularly in elections where there are multiple seats open, such as a school committee race. Short answer: Yes. The details follow.
At its 2020 convention, LWVUS adopted a broad position on voting systems that covers, but is not limited to, ranked-choice voting. RCV is not specifically named, but the attributes of supported voting systems, specifically “implement alternatives to plurality voting,” apply to RCV. And this support covers RCV proposals for elections with multiple as well as single winners and municipal elections. Here is the LWVUS position, from Impact on Issues, p. 51.
LWVUS promotes an open governmental system that is representative, accountable, and responsive. We encourage electoral methods that provide the broadest voter representation possible and are expressive of voter choices. Whether for single- or multiple-winner contests, the League supports electoral methods that:
- Encourage voter participation and voter engagement.
- Encourage those with minority opinions to participate, including under-represented communities.
- Are verifiable and auditable.
- Promote access to voting.
- Maximize effective votes/minimize wasted votes.
- Promote sincere voting over strategic voting.
- Implement alternatives to plurality voting.
- Are compatible with acceptable ballot-casting methods, including vote-by-mail.
The LWVUS believes in representative government. The League supports electoral systems that elect policy making bodies–-legislatures, councils, commissions, and boards — that proportionally reflect the people they represent. We support systems that inhibit political manipulation (e.g., gerrymandering).
The LWVUS supports enabling legislation to allow local jurisdictions to explore alternative electoral methods, as well as supporting state election laws allowing for more options at both the state and local levels. With the adoption of any electoral system, the League believes that education of the voting public is important and funding for startup and voter education should be available. We encourage a concerted voter education process.
Take a look at the history of this position that follows the position itself in Impact on Issues.
In addition, LWVMA has a position supporting RCV dating back to 2005, when it was called “instant runoff voting.” LWVMA supports systems that require a winner to receive a majority of votes. That position is not specific in its application to multiple-winner contests and is more geared to single-winner contests, so the LWVUS position is clearer and easier to use.
Here’s the LWVMA position, from Where We Stand, p. 15
VOTING SYSTEMS (2005) GOAL: Voting systems should be easy to use, administer and understand, encourage high voter turnout, encourage real discussion on issues, promote minority representation, and encourage candidates to run. When electing someone to a single executive office at the state level, such as governor or attorney general, including primary and general elections, the voting system should require the winner to obtain a majority of the votes. The League supports instant runoff voting. Cost and complexity make two-round runoff not acceptable.
See the Where We Stand link for a 2018 clarification of the state position.
LWVMA supported the 2020 ballot question on RCV based on these positions.
Any effort by a city or town to adopt RCV for local elections requires the approval of the state legislature. The legislature has not brought such home-rule RCV petitions to the floor for a vote in the past. We are currently supporting, as we have in previous legislative sessions, a bill to allow municipalities to adopt RCV or other election systems for municipal elections WITHOUT the approval of the state legislature, H711/S433. Here’s a link to our testimony.
If a local League’s town does send a home rule bill on RCV to the legislature and the local League wishes to support it, you can do that. The state League Legislative Action Committee (LAC) does not take up bills limited specifically to one town, but we do have a procedure in place for local Leagues to take such action, working with the LAC so that the LAC knows what local Leagues are doing. See the article in this Action Newsletter on that policy.
If you are looking for background information on how RCV works, try Homepage – FairVote. FairVote is not an unbiased source, because they advocate for RCV around the country, but there’s some useful information on how the system can work.