Lindsey Cormack (parle en anglais) : Lindy Kormack.
New Jersey will make voting simpler and more accessible with online registration and early voting starting Oct. 23. Some are calling for New Jersey to adopt ranked choice voting, the method that was recently adopted in New York City for municipal primary elections.
While the need to overhaul our electoral system is well-positioned, and politicians like Andrew Yang trumpet the positives of RCV, R CV falls short in practice and has its drawbacks. However, there is a lesser-known reform, known as approval voting, which has been adopted in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fargo, North Dakota, but it can achieve the RCV goals, making it easier to implement for governments as well as simpler to use by voters.
The issues with RCV are a mystery.
RCV now operates in a total of 20 cities, as well as Alaska and Maine. Supporters of plurality systems claim that winners in our current system dont have to win a majority of votes, but rather more than everyone else. Though it may seem like an RCV system that ends when someone has a majority of votes would result in majority winners, in practice it doesnt.
Given that voters are limited to three to five ranks (depending on local statues) and because RCV elections tend to attract more candidates, many races are won by candidates without the support of a majority of voters. In the 2021 NYC Democratic primary, the majority of winners had less than a majority support.
Supporters claim that RCV avoids wasting a vote on if he or she is unfavorably favored. In RCV, voters can pick their favorite first, and if thats a third-party candidate, they can select dozens of other ranked backup candidates. Although voting appears more expressive in RCV, in the vast majority of cases, this perception does not translate into different outcomes.
First, in most RCV elections, the person with the most votes in Round 1 is the eventual winner, and that person is rarely a third-party candidate. Because changing the election selection mechanism does nothing to alter current party funding structures, legislative organization structures or the fact that only one person may win each election, breaking up the two-party system doesn't occur with RCV.
Second, the potential for spoilers remains. In a typical, single vote election, referred to as 'a spoiler', the candidate who receives enough votes to prevent the outcome from shifting if they had all gone to the second-place candidate. In an RCV election, a spoiler may be if he or she has received enough votes to allow the outcome to have been altered merely.
RCV also has three additional drawbacks.
First, ballot design as printing RCV ballots takes up more floor space.
Second, the calculation time for determining a winner depends on having ranked all votes in Round 1, before moving on to eliminate the lowest vote getter.
Finally, there are ballot errors. Though voters say they understand RCV in surveys, every state that has adopted R CV ballots has found that use and participation is unison and that ballot applications are voided for voters who erroneously mark ballot papers in whats known as an overvote. More alarming is the fact that these errors are more common in lower-income areas and in those with a higher percentage of non-white voters.
What to do?
New Jersey is currently considering two bills, A-4744 and S-2992, collectively referred to as the New York Municipal Instant Runoff Act, which is being considered by the state legislature. These bills are firmly rooted in the FairVote tradition of RCV reform. New Jersey legislators have an opportunity to consider a different type of reform, which may pave the way for achieving scalability, easier implementation, and more revolutionary system of approval voting.
Approval voting follows the same ballot procedure as single-selection elections, but voters may approve of as many candidates as they like. The candidate with the most favorable votes wins. It's intuitive, easy to use, and mirrors the way most people make consensus decisions. If youve ever done a Doodle poll to determine the best meeting time for dozens of people, you've probably done approval voting. Candidates who win are those with the most overlapping support among voters.
The urge for reform is understandable. But if the justifications used to support RCV do not materialize, voters may opt for a more complex approach that can result in similar, frustrating outcomes as well as additional downsides. Right now, RCV is having a moment. But before we change our system, lets also consider approval voting as an alternative.
Lindsey Cormack is an assistant professor of Political Science at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. She worked on the first RCV election in New York and has been covered for her work investigating BOE voter privacy breaches.