| Sarah Wall ∙ R Street |
It won’t be much of a surprise that Americans are discontent with our democratic republic. Polling  finds three-in-five Americans are “dissatisfied with the way democracy is working,” a figure that is stable across Republican and Democratic presidencies over the last decade, and fewer than one-third  of Americans trust government institutions. Low voter engagement is one result: while turnout has been trending upward over the last 10 years or so, 80 million Americans  who were eligible to cast ballots in 2020 chose not to.
”Libertarian candidates sometimes “play spoiler” in New Hampshire, splitting the conservative vote so Democrats win a plurality, and thus, the election.
This discontent does not have to be the norm, and ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, is a possible solution. Because it allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, ranked-choice voting empowers people to express their preferences more deeply than the “first-past-the-post” system used in the vast majority of American jurisdictions. In 2022, New Hampshire legislators will consider whether to allow local jurisdictions and political parties to “opt-in” to ranked-choice voting, and Republicans should support it, as it promotes political competition and engagement across the diverse spectrum of political views and beliefs.
Just what is ranked-choice voting  (RCV)? With RCV, voters mark candidates in order of their preference; a well-designed RCV ballot will often have separate columns for voters’ ease marked “first choice,” “second choice” and so on. If any candidate receives a majority—50 percent plus one vote—of first-choice votes, he or she is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives a majority, the candidate who received the least number of votes is eliminated, and voters who ranked the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their votes allocated to their second choice. This process  continues until one of the candidates reaches a majority and is declared the winner.
It’s fair to say ranked-choice voting has been met with distrust among Republicans nationally, who assume Democrats advocate for it because it will give them advantages in elections. But in reality, ranked-choice voting doesn’t favor Democrats: on the contrary, there’s a strong conservative case to be made for it, as Barry Fagin of the Independence Institute outlines  . Because RCV promotes a free-market competition of good ideas, it ensures there’s a diversity of opinion within a strong coalition of voters.
Thus, RCV empowers consensus-building candidates of any partisan stripe. Because it’s in a candidate’s best interest to convince a broad swath of voters to rank them as their first or second choice, both in their own base as well as independents and moderates, RCV builds broad coalitions and empowers voters to have a greater say than in a “Republican-vs.-Democrat” binary. Besides, it’s not as if the binary choice in a two-party “first-past-the-post” system offers great advantages worth defending: even John Adams, the nation’s second president, called  it “the greatest political Evil under our Constitution.”
In addition to these philosophical underpinnings, there’s also a political argument for Granite State Republicans to consider RCV: it would probably favor their candidates. As James Pindell detailed  in NH Magazine , Libertarian candidates sometimes “play spoiler” in New Hampshire, splitting the conservative vote so Democrats win a plurality, and thus, the election. Under ranked-choice voting, it’s easy to envision a scenario in which the Libertarian is eliminated on the first round, and voters who ranked the Libertarian first turn to their second choice—likely the Republican candidate.
Ranked-choice voting has fans on every side of the political aisle, which is why it’s springing up all over the country  , from blue cities like New York City and San Francisco, to conservative strongholds like Utah and Alaska, to proudly purple Maine. In 2022, New Hampshire legislators will have the opportunity to add their state to the list. Republicans in the General Court should allow jurisdictions to opt-in, not only because it might benefit their odds of re-election, but more importantly, because ranked-choice voting opens up greater competition of ideas, giving their constituents a deeper, more nuanced expression of their real preferences. Politics aside, that’s something we can all support.
- “ Polling ”: https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2021/06/22/americans-are-dissatisfied-democracy
- “ fewer than one-third ”: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/15/why-americans-growing-distrust-civic-institutions-warning-column/4668616001/
- “ 80 million Americans ”: https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/559967-why-arent-americans-voting
- “ Just what is ranked-choice voting ”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z2fRPRkWvY
- “ This process ”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ez3aEUjRQo&t=1s
- “ outlines ”: https://i2i.org/wp-content/uploads/IP-3-2021_b_web.pdf
- “ called ”: https://i2i.org/wp-content/uploads/IP-3-2021_b_web.pdf
- “ detailed ”: https://www.nhmagazine.com/will-new-hampshire-implement-ranked-choice-voting/
- “ all over the country ”: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/11/23/ranked-choice-voting-survived-its-biggest-election-season-yet