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Ranked choice voting: What is it? How does it work?

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - A new way of voting may be on its way to Idaho. The voting system is ranked choice voting (RCV).

The system is based on the idea voters can rank their candidates in order of preference.

For example, if there are three candidates on a ballot running for a seat, voters would mark their first choice in the first column, their second choice in the second column, and their third choice in the third column. This same process would hold true if there were more than three candidates as well.

In the event no one candidate doesn't have 50% of the vote, the candidate with the lowest percentage of votes gets eliminated and those voters' second choice gets more votes. This process continues until there is a winner.

"In our current system, we instead have a plurality. It doesn't necessarily have to be 50%. You can still win a first past the post-election with 45, it doesn't necessarily have to be 50 and the same is also true of ranked-choice voting," Dr. Markie McBrayer an associate professor of political science at the University of Idaho said.

Supporters of the system, say that RCV can give voters more power as they have more choices available. Supporters also say that it also leads to less negative campaigning.

However, those against it say RCV is way too confusing. They say part of what makes it so confusing is having too many players in the field. However, Dr. McBrayer says it's not that simple.

"One of the stronger findings is we do know that it discourages negative campaigning. That's a little more robust. It also seems that people in the short term are confused by it for like one or two elections. However, by about the second election, people do understand how it works and are comfortable with it," Dr. McBrayer said.

Those against also say that the system may lead to more ballot errors. Once again says Dr. McBrayer, it's not quite that simple.

"There was a more recent study from 2021 that showed that Maine, which had adopted ranked-choice voting along with some localities. It did not lead to greater ballot error. That is again, not necessarily supported in the literature that it leads to more ballot errors," Dr. McBrayer said.

Ranked choice voting is already used for major elections in Maine and Alaska. It is also used in Utah within some city elections. It was also used in the 2020 Wyoming Democratic primary.

Dr. McBrayer says in the end if the system ever gets adopted its impact may not be all that large.

"I think the main thing that people should take away is that the effects are likely very small or nonexistent," she said.

You can vote on our poll HERE.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho Politics

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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