Jason Snead: The Left, having remade Alaska elections, targets Nevada for jungle primaries, ranked choice voting

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By JASON SNEAD | HONEST ELECTIONS PROJECT ACTION

The left’s latest ploy to remake elections is a complicated scheme called “ranked-choice voting” (RCV).

Advocates claim it strengthens “majority rule” and leads to a healthier democracy, and they’ve pushed dozens of municipalities and two states to use it. (RELATED: The Left Has Launched A Surprise Attack Targeting Voting Rules In One Battleground State)

Nevada is their latest target. Voters there will decide on election day if they want to join in this nationwide experiment. If experience is any judge, they’d be wise to sit this one out.

If the measure known as Question 3 eventually passes (it would have to pass again in 2024), Nevada’s traditional election system will be upended. Party primaries will be replaced with a California-style “jungle primary.”

The five candidates who get the most votes will advance to the general and ranked-choice voting would be used to determine the final winner. That sounds simple, but RCV is far more complex than its proponents make it out to be.

Instead of “one person, one vote,” voters rank multiple candidates from first to last. If no candidate wins a majority of first-place votes, then the lowest-ranked candidate is eliminated. Those votes are redistributed based on each voter’s second-place picks, and this process of elimination is repeated until one candidate wins a majority of votes. Or at least, appears to.

Under RCV, if a voter’s top pick is eliminated and he has no second-place choice, his ballot is tossed out. RCV proponents euphemistically calls this ballot “exhaustion.” A better term is disenfranchisement, since exhausted ballots are simply erased from the final results, as though they had never been cast at all.

So many ballots can be thrown out in RCV elections that candidates can be elected without winning a majority of votes cast. That just happened in the 2022 Alaska special congressional election. Democratic candidate Mary Peltola won with just 48.4% of votes cast, yet was able to claim a winning margin of 51.5%.

How? Some 11,222 ballots were thrown out after the first round of tabulation, allowing Peltola to claim a majority mandate that did not exist.

This is not an isolated problem. Even George Soros-funded RCV advocacy groups like FairVote acknowledged that, on average, nearly one in three voters do not rank multiple candidates in RCV elections, leading their ballots to be tossed out if their candidate is eliminated. In fact, studies show that a significant number of votes are routinely thrown out in RCV elections. So much for RCV’s claims to promote “majority rule.”

Even more bizarrely, candidates who fail to secure the most first-place votes can go on to win the election. During the 2010 mayor’s race in Oakland, California, the candidate with the most first-place votes lost the election to “a candidate on the strength of nearly 25,000 second and third-place votes” after nine rounds of vote redistribution.

RCV advocates claim it strengthens democracy, but data suggest it may actually decrease voter participation. This effect is particularly pronounced for infrequent voters, who may be turned off by RCV’s complexity. Some on the left even express grave concerns that the burdens of RCV will fall disproportionately on low-income and minority voters.

Great pains have been taken to present RCV as a bipartisan election reform, but it is impossible to ignore that the funding to push it comes overwhelmingly from the left. Massachusetts saw a nearly $3 million effort from the left-wing Action Now Initiative to round up signatures in support of their 2020 RCV initiative. Earlier this year in Missouri, a liberal organization contributed nearly $6.8 million dollars to support a ballot measure in the state.

Most recently, $2.26 million from mainly left-wing backers have poured into Nevada’s 2022 RCV campaign.

But all this money cannot cure the single largest problem that RCV faces: the more people learn about it, the more they turn away from it. Voters rejected RCV in Massachusetts and a multimillion campaign in Missouri failed to turn in enough signatures to even qualify for the ballot. The latest polling suggests that Nevadans, too, are souring on the scheme.

Who can blame them. Like the partisan plan to nationalize elections with H.R. 1, or the left’s endless stream of election lawsuits, the aim of RCV isn’t to improve democracy but to reshape it for political advantage.

Activists are pushing hard across the country. Seattle also has an RCV proposal on the ballot this November, and RCV’s salesmen are already setting their sights on Arizona in 2024. Countless other towns and cities are in the crosshairs, too.

RCV isn’t the path to a better election system, just a more complicated one that disenfranchises Americans and fuels doubt and confusion. Ranked-choice is clearly the wrong choice for voting in America.

Jason Snead is the Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action. His column first appeared at the Daily Caller.

36 COMMENTS

  1. The principle reason for RCV is to forever eliminate closed Republican primaries. That way, Democrats can help eliminate strong conservative Republicans and help the emergence of weak Republicans that will either win, or the Democrats will get rid of them in the general election.
    .
    Think: Joe Miller v. Lisa Murkowski.

    • If you’re referring to 2010, that was a closed Republican primary when Miller upset Murkowski and was the GOP nominee. Murkowski went on to win re-election in a write-in campaign — only the second person in U.S. history to win a statewide election as a write-in candidate.

      Then in 2016, Miller challenged Murkowski as a Libertarian. Miller’s move that time split the conservative vote to the advantage of Democrats. But Murkowski won re-election again. If she wins in 2022, it won’t be because of any “split vote.” It will be the broad support she enjoys among Alaska voters.

      • Oh yeah, Lee, we forgot. The closed primary that Joe Miller won, straight up in August 2010. Then, for the next 10 ten weeks the radical lefty newspapers ran disparaging and berating headline stories about Joe Miller. And, the Democrats, with their allies in the Alaska courts, developed a write-in system that was designed exclusively to help Lisa win, even though 85% of the Bush Democrats had no clue how to spell Murkowski. Yeah, that election. Another episode of Democrats stealing an election.
        And now, Lisa Murkowski is the darling of the Democrats and the disdain of Republicans. Yep, we remember it well, Lee, and apparently you do too.

        • Is that the best you can come up with to explain away Lisa Murkowski’s staying power with the voters? If so, you should change your name to “Artful Dodger,” the pickpocket in Oliver Twist.

      • You have an error there Lee.
        “It will be the broad support she enjoys among Alaska voters.”
        Should read:
        “It will be the broad support she enjoys among Democrat Alaska voters.”
        .
        No need to thank me, I am glad to help.

        • You overlook that Democrats were 43% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. Forty-three percent of Alaska’s voters deserve representation, too. Republicans already have one conservative Republican Senator with Dan Sullivan. Murkowski draws support from both parties and from independents. That makes her a consensus choice for moderate Republicans and Democrats. Conservative Republicans can’t expect to control 100% of representation in Alaska’s Senate delegation.

          • Bummer.
            60+% of voters wanted a Republican to backfill behind Don Young, but hey, here we are without representation.
            .
            And, you may be bamboozled by the headlines, but in reality, moderates do not stand for anything. They start from a position of compromise, and they and up losing. If you see Murkowski as a moderate, I have more reason to vote Kelly T.

    • Android, you’re on the right track but the actual reasoning is the leftists know the Republicans are less disciplined at voting; they fail to get in line behind a single candidate like leftists are able to. The Republicans fail to do whatever it takes to win like the leftists do (like what happened to Gross).

    • It is not a closed primary if anyone, regardless of political party, can choose that primary ballot.
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      A closed primary is when only registered party members can vote in that party’s primary.
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      And, I am a fan of closed primaries. I cannot imagine any supportable reason why a registered Republican should have any say whatsoever in who represents the Democrats in the general election. Or the other way around.
      .
      Finally, the RCV is not the real problem here. Open primaries are. It is insane that two members of the same party should be campaigning against each other.

      • The importance of an open primary is to prevent a party’s most zealous partisans from dominating low-turnout, partisan primaries and thereby short-circuiting the general election, where turnout is five times higher and where election outcomes should be decided. RCV in the general election allows candidates to appeal for the broadest support possible and not just from their party’s base voters.

        • The party has a right to choose which candidate represents them on the general election ballot. If the party wants a zealot, then the party wants that. IF you are a member of the party, and you do not want the zealot, vote in the primary.
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          Your comment does not explain how you justify a registered Democrat having a say in who represents the Republicans in the general election.
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          And, RCV would not be a problem if the primaries are closed. One candidate per party is not a problem. You get to rank among the four parties that get the most votes in the primary. If almost no voters turn out for the Green party, they do not appear on the ballot.
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          Close the primaries, and the elections will improve.

  2. Porcaro and Soros on the same side of an issue. Well, you are known by the company you keep.

    RVC is the latest in a long line of initiatives to ensure the uniparty gets what it wants. Republicans refuse to fight back and Democrats are 4 steps ahead of them all the time.

    In some ways I wish the left would jus declare elections over and themselves the eternal winners. It would get everything out in the open and allow principled opposition to form. If there is any.

  3. It’s really very simple. You have an election of three. Two Republicans and one Democrat, Republicans split the vote and the Democrat gets all the Democrat vote. Worked very well for Peltola with the help of Gross dropping out at the last minute.

    • The opposite is going to happen in the governor race though. Gara and Walker will split the socialist vote.

    • Exactly. And dark money will ensure it wins in Nevada, because the opposition is the public, and they don’t have the same kind of money.

    • My friend of 60 years from Oklahoma put it simply: If conservatives don’t take the U.S. House and Senate, the United States Of America is done. If you’re interested, study up and vote accordingly.

      • I think America’s judgment is sealed since the u.s.supreme legalized homosexual marriage. America looks like its waiting for judgment. Today it continues turning to others and everthing except God. I think like Judah, we already done, we’re waiting for our own modern day babylonians to burn our cities. No matter which political party holds power, america’s destruction is coming.

          • I believe God is merciful to those who don’t turn away from Him and try to uphold His gentle guidance. However, it won’t be pretty to watch the decline of this once great country, founded on His principles. Again, God bless.

  4. This opinion column misses a few important concepts and perpetuates several misunderstandings about RCV and the proposed Final Five system in Nevada.

    1) The most fundamental problem with this last RCV election in AK is that the most preferred candidate, Begich, was not elected. Of all of the criticisms thrown at RCV in this opinion column, this most important one is glaringly absent. Note however, that this type of anomaly may be rare for RCV.

    2) RCV does not disenfranchise bullet-voters by discarding their ballots; they voluntarily dropped out of later rounds. Some votes/rankings indeed are ignored, a general problem with RCV not mentioned in this column, but no valid ballots are actually discarded.

    3) It is certainly valid for a candidate with low first-place-rankings to win, and suggesting otherwise is in some sense mathematically erroneous. Vote-splitting can sometimes create such a winner, but the opinion that there is anything wrong with this type of an election outcome is purely subjective. For example, in this recent Alaska US House special election, Begich was the most preferred candidate overall if all rankings were considered (Condorcet winner), yet he received the third least amount of first place votes.

    4) RCV, or any two-round system that uses RCV, is not a liberal conspiracy. The attempt to improve our elections is genuine and badly needed. The present primary/general election system is horribly broken, and actually may be MORE complicated than the Final Five system proposed in Nevada. Effectively, primaries usually determine who takes office, not the general election, and often times it’s a less-preferred candidate that wins. This type of election failure is all too frequent and far more common than any other (e.g., spoiler scenario). Abolishing party primaries is generally a good idea as long as it is done in a way that respects the right to free association.

    5) Many may be skeptical of RCV, but should they prefer a top-two system like that of CA and WA? At least Alaska and Nevada’s strategy to abolish party primaries makes some attempt to alleviate the vote-splitting and spoiler problems, and have done so without severely limiting the choices of voters on November election day.

    6) This column is right about the majority winner issue. Lack of a majority winner under a system claimed by its proponents to always elect one is a fair criticism. Please note that many voting system experts suggest a good voting method should not include a majority criterion.

    • The real problem is not RCV.
      The real problem is jungle open primaries, and the top four getting on the general election.
      The real problem is taking away the party’s right to decide who gets to represent them in the general election.
      The real problem is having two or more members of the same party competing in the general, not only against the other major parties, but against each other.
      .
      RCV would be a lot tougher to criticize if it were not for the open/jungle primary.

      • Why should the Party choose who is the candidate? Why cant the voters decide?

        The party can still endorse a candidate and put their considerable resources behind said candidate.

        But the question still stands, why should a political party have the control over the choice for voters?

        • The voters do decide. In the grassroots process. Candidates are vetted at the local level by voters active in the party said candidate wants to represent.

          Those with “it” move to regional contests and the process repeats.

          Those with a lot of “it” move to the state level and the process repeats.

          The people have every possible opportunity to vet candidates they could possibly want. Most just don’t bother.

        • They will choose the candidate that the registered members of the party select via their votes. I may have not have made that as clear as I should have.
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          If you are not a registered member of the party, you do not get to vote for the candidate representing them on the general ballot.
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          The real question is why you think the Party is not its members?

        • Rd: Pablo: “Why should the Party choose who is the candidate? Why cant the voters decide?”

          Why should either party OR voters play a role in ballot access? Why not require each candidate to access the ballot in exactly the same way (petition signatures and/or filing fee) as any other regardless of party affiliation or any previous party proceeding? Parties need to be given the power to determine who can use their name, but other than that, should have no special power and privilege to dictate ballot access. Abolishing the vote-splitting problem permits these important changes without harming free-association rights.

      • Re: “The real problem is having two or more members of the same party competing in the general, not only against the other major parties, but against each other.”

        Nominating more than one candidate should not be a problem, except that this version of a ranking method (Hare RCV or Hare IRV) indeed can suffer from vote-splitting. So, yes, the problem IS RCV. Approval voting should be used in the first round election (what is incorrectly called a “nonpartisan primary”) to alleviate vote-splitting, and a better system needs to be used for the second stage election. If using a ranking method for the second stage, eight or nine should be advanced, not four. Another option may be to hold the approval voting first round in the middle of October, then send the top-two to November.

        Whatever system is used, party primaries must be abolished, which is the whole idea of using some version of a two-round system. Parties should no longer have special power and privilege through nominate-only-one proceedings (plus sore loser laws) to effectively choose who takes office, or dictate ballot access in a public election.

      • Re: CBMTTek: “The real problem is taking away the party’s right to decide who gets to represent them in the general election.”

        Parties need to be given the power to determine who can use their name and who cannot, but other than that, should have no special power and privilege to dictate ballot access, and thus in most elections, dictate who takes office.

        • And, because the Party IS its members, who gets to exercise that power, and how?
          Closed primaries. Solves both issues.

  5. The Trump base and Marjorie Taylor Greene will be driving the bus with Kevin McCarthy as a hostage for the next two years. This chaos will guarantee a progressive surge in 2024. Nature and democracy always try to get back in balance.

    • First of all, MTG is a blip on history. She is the GOP’s version of A0C. Texans would describe her as all hat, no cattle.
      And, the Trump base would cause chaos? Can you expand on that?
      .
      What chaos did we have during the Trump Presidency? A soaring economy? Crime going down? Less drugs flowing freely over the southern border? International relations improving? NATO member states actually paying their share as required under the Treaty? Perhaps Israel and arab nations normalizing relations is a problem to you.
      .
      Can’t speak for anyone else, but my household income went up significantly during the Trump administration. And, my 401(k) was skyrocketing as well. There were plenty of people working, and the store shelves were always well stocked. Even during the panicdemic, I did not have problems getting what I wanted in shops. Fuel prices where low, and living expenses matched.
      .
      I would rather have the chaos we endured under Trump than the “order” we are living in under this administration.

  6. True. I’m just an ordinary person who worked and saved all my life so I wouldn’t be a burden to society. It is painful to see my portfolio swirling down the toilet during this administration.

      • I was enjoying retirement too. Since my husband died 17 years ago, I have our 41 year old home renovated, as we had planned, and the maintenance is ongoing. My advisor tells me the market will improve slowly. The breath-taking losses are disturbing though. I did see an article on a conservative site that suggested some of those responsible for this debacle will be leaving the administration soon. Hope that is true. Hang in there.

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