by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As different states and municipalities across the country adopt ranked-choice voting, it’s become obvious this mind-boggling election system deserves a new name: rigged-choice voting.
After nearly two months of tabulation, Alameda County, California, — one such ranked-choice voting (RCV) adoptee — announced it got the count wrong for its Nov. 8 election. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the California county admitted it made systemic errors while tabulating ballots. As a result of the snafu, an Oakland School Board race flipped: The top vote-getter (and certified winner) must now hand his board seat over to the third-place finisher.
While gross negligence on the part of some Alameda County election officials is not only probable but likely, RCV’s Byzantine election system must also take the blame. In it, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and his voters are reallocated to the voter’s second-choice candidate. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes. For the Oakland mayor’s race, it took nine baffling rounds of RCV for one candidate to receive the narrow majority. The local NAACP chapter demanded a manual recount but scrapped it due to the expense.
In the case of the Oakland School Board election, officials blame a software configuration problem for the error (even the machines were confused about how to count the RCV-way). But is it right for a candidate who receives a plurality of votes on the first go-through to eventually lose to someone who finishes last? Often, the victors that emerge from ranked-choice voting are not the candidates a majority of voters favor. Case-in-point: Democrat Mary Peltola won Alaska’s lone congressional seat despite nearly 60 percent of voters casting their ballots for a Republican.
What’s behind the RCV takeover? As The Federalist has previously reported, partisan Democratic activists and moderate Republicans are pushing RCV as a legal mechanism to push out more revolutionary (read: populist) candidates in favor of establishment-backed contenders.