Ranked Choice: Eliminating vote splitting on the general election ballot.

By design, four candidates are advanced from a hybrid primary to the general election. For major party candidates, the two-stage vote tally eliminates vote splitting in the primary, but vote splitting in the general election still exists. For Democrats and other progressives this is critical. In the past, vote splitting by progressive candidates in the general election has resulted in the election of conservative candidates with less than 50% of the vote. (Bush, Gore, Nader – Florida 2000)

The initial partisan tally of the hybrid primary allows Democrats the opportunity to consolidate their support behind a single candidate per office – but this isn’t enough. “Liberal” and “progressive” are not the same thing, and many progressive voters do not support the priorities and solutions advocated by liberal Democrats. Indeed, many progressive voters are not liberal.

Increasingly, these “other” progressives are refusing to affiliate with the Democratic party. Subsequently, they don’t participate in the Democratic primary as voters or candidates. As a result, two or more strong progressive candidates will likely advance to every significant general election. “Ranked Choice Voting” (RCV) is a simple and effective method of consolidating all the progressive vote prior to the final vote tally in a general election.

“Ranked Choice Voting” (RCV) is a hybrid general election that uses a two stage vote tally to combine a multiple candidate general election with a top-two run-off.

Shown below is a mock RCV ballot for the 2016 Oregon general election – if – four candidates had been advanced from a hybrid primary. The top four candidates are listed in order – based on a presumed final vote count from the primary. Voters using an RCV ballot are allowed to indicate a first and second choice for each office. Any combination of choices is permissible – as long as the vote-for-one rules are not violated.

Mock RCV Ballot for 2016 General Election

Note, this is a mock ballot. There’s no way to ascertain, with any certainty, which four candidates would have advanced. This ballot shows only one possibility, and this particular possibility was chosen to highlight a very likely outcome that most people are unaware of. The ballot shows Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both advancing from the primary to the general election.

A hybrid primary is designed specifically to limit each major party to one candidate – and many assume this will always be the case. Nonetheless, so many voters receive Open Ballots (40% in Oregon), that it’s entirely possible, for a strong major party candidate to lose in the winner-take-all partisan tally – but still qualify for the general election.

A hybrid primary secures an equal, unfettered opportunity for minor party and Independent candidates – but – they must be good candidates running strong campaigns. A hybrid primary doesn’t guarantee general election ballot access to anyone. Only the top candidates advance – and the top candidates are chosen in the primary – by voters.

Shown below are presumed – but nonetheless reasonable mock results for the ballot shown above. In Oregon, statewide Republican candidates normally garner 46%-47% of the vote – rarely higher, sometimes lower. Libertarian candidates normally poll around 1% – 2%, and Write-Ins are normally 1% or less. Democrats get all the progressive vote if the Pacific Green Party and Independent Party of Oregon are not on the ballot.

We assume 100 ballots returned – just to make the math simple. (Note, the results don’t add up to 100. This is due to “Under-Voting”. Voters in Oregon and elsewhere don’t fill in their ballots completely when they’re dissatisfied with the choices given…


Mock RCV Results for 2016 General Election

The results shown above are reasonable for this particular slate of candidates. Note:

  1. It’s permissible to choose the same candidate for a first and second choice. Many voters did this for Trump, Sanders and Clinton.
  2. It’s permissible to leave the second choice blank. The second choice votes for Trump don’t add up to 46 (The first choice count)
  3. Major party voters usually assume that minor party voters will support a Democrat or Republican as their second choice. The results shown above are probably more realistic.

The results of the first tally are shown below. The top two candidates were Trump and Clinton. The remaining three candidates were eliminated along with their votes.


Mock RCV 1st Tally Results for 2016 General Election

The second tally consolidates the votes for the top two candidates, and hopefully, determines a single top candidate. Note that RCV is designed specifically to solve the problem of vote splitting in the general election. The example shown above is realistic, in that without RCV, Donald Trump could easily have won this Oregon election with only 46% of the vote.


Mock RCV 2nd Tally Results for 2016 General Election

All the progressive vote needs to be consolidated prior to the final vote tally in each general election – or the conservative candidate can win election by default. Currently, Democrats are still colluding with Republicans to exclude Independent and Minor party candidates in the primary. In effect, forcing voters to choose between the lesser of two evils in the general election.

The exclusion strategy has worked, and still appears to be working for Republicans. For Democrats however, the exclusion strategy, while it clearly worked in decades past – is no longer effective. Many “other” progressives are refusing to support Democratic candidates precisely because of tacit Democratic support for voter and candidate exclusion.

Democrats (collectively) need to make a decision: Continue collaborating with Republicans to exclude other progressive voters and candidates – or – join with “other” progressives to win elections. Which is more important?