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Data proves opponents of ranked choice voting wrong

Douglas Goodman
Douglas Goodman
Opinion
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On May 9, 2022, a group identified as Let Nevadans Vote held a press conference opposing a proposed ballot initiative that would increase the opportunity of all Nevada voters to have a real choice and loud voice regardless of political affiliation. On May 16, 2022, a group of high-level Democratic elected officials released similar statements, almost word for word, in opposition. 

Research proves their argument is based on talking points rooted in the fear of losing power to voters — and a complete ignoring of the facts. 

Their claims

  • The process is complicated, time-consuming, confusing, and will inevitably result in increased errors.
  • It could also lead to more ballots being thrown out and disenfranchisement for marginalized voters.
  • Voting should be easier, not like a multiple-choice standardized test.
  • It would add to tabulation times for vote counting.
  • Changing the state Constitution would be a mistake.


The facts:

  • If ranked choice voting (RCV), which dates back to the mid-1800s was complicated or confusing, it would not be used by:
    • Fifty-five political jurisdictions by approximately 10 million voters
    • Six state Democratic parties during their 2020 presidential caucus or primary including in Nevada
    • Both major and minor political parties for internal operations
    • More than 90 colleges and universities
    • Hundreds of businesses and organizations governed by Robert’s Rules of Order
    • The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (The OSCARS)
    • Various sports organizations
    • Numerous other countries

Additionally, if RCV was too complicated or confusing, an overwhelming majority (often more than 80 percent) of voters would not have expressed approval of the process in exit polls

If RCV was too complicated or confusing, former Assemblywoman and current Las Vegas City Council member Olivia Diaz would not have sent a questionnaire to her constituents asking them, in both English and Spanish to “Please pick your top three in order of preference” from a choice of eight topics. 

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If RCV placed under-represented populations (ethnic minorities and women) at a disadvantage, as has been claimed, those voters would not, as has so far been the case, turn out at a higher rate and see their favorite candidates win more races than under current winner-take-all plurality elections. If open primaries, where all candidates are listed and all voters can vote regardless of party affiliation, were bad for voters of color, a Social Science Research Network (SSRN) study would not have found the opposite to be true.

If voters could not adapt or tabulation time would substantially increase, Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria would not have told the Las Vegas Sun:

  • The tabulation process is automated.
  • Ranked-choice voting is something voters could learn. “We don’t give the general public enough credit. They learn,” Gloria said, pointing to the vote-by-mail changes in the 2020 election as well as the change from punch-card ballots to voting on computers. “People here are used to change. … It’s not hard…” 

If ballot rejection rates in RCV races were higher, research would have not shown that “Just like the experience of in-person caucus-goers, no votes were wasted.”

The political environment in our country is toxic. Voters are tired of the two major political parties being in an ideological war with the victim being the voters themselves. In Nevada, the voter registration rolls tell the story: At the end of 2000, more than 80 percent of active voters belonged to either the Democratic or Republican Party. At the end of April 2022, more voters were either registered as nonpartisan or a member of a minor party than belonged to either major party.

Voters these days often believe they have no choice but to maintain the status quo, settling for the lesser of two evils with the party in power systematically trying to suppress the vote of those who do not want to go along with them. The press conference referenced in this piece and past actions of Democratic legislative leadership in Nevada exemplify this suppression.

Amending the state Constitution is the only path, given a 2015 opinion by the Legislature’s lawyers, the Legislative Counsel Bureau, on bill draft request (BDR) 1149:

After researching the constitutionality of the BDR, we believe that the "instant runoff" system violates: (1) Section 4 of Article 5 of the Nevada Constitution, which requires that candidates "having the highest number of votes" be declared elected; and (2) Section 14 of Article 15, which provides that a candidate wins an election by receiving a "plurality" of votes (rather than a majority of votes).” 

Those who held that press conference are scared. They don’t want to lose power to the voters. They know the facts show their statements on open primaries and RCV are exactly like any other partisan talking point: unsupported by facts and therefore a scare tactic.

Thankfully, more than 200,000 registered voters in Nevada have had enough and are calling these divisive factions out. 

Doug Goodman is founder and executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform, a coalition member of Nevada Voters First.

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