Lisa Dixon: Is ranked-choice voting friend or foe to minority representation?



As far-left progressives seek to fundamentally change America, including how we vote, their controversial and confusing voting scheme known as ranked-choice voting raises concerns about its impact on minority voters. Two recently-released studies trying to answer that question have come to wildly different conclusions. Which one is right?

First, a little background.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. While some voters find the concept appealing, the intricate process of eliminating candidates and reallocating votes can be confusing. This complexity, compounded by the sheer number of candidates in some races, poses a risk to the fundamental principles of fair and transparent elections.

Almost everywhere it’s been tried, black Americans have alleged that their ballots are discarded at a higher rate than those of non-minority voters. After losing his mayoral bid in a ranked-choice voting election in Oakland, Calif., Seneca Scott, a black candidate, said, “When we’re looking at the data, it looked like a lot of people, who clearly intended to vote a certain way, had their ballots tossed for overvotes because they made a mistake. And these mistakes trend in disenfranchised, marginalized communities.”

The head of the New York State chapter of the NAACP went so far as to call ranked-choice voting “voter suppression.”

While the anecdotal evidence was troubling, it wasn’t enough to hold up to legal scrutiny in the courts or make a definitive case in the court of public opinion. Hard evidence came last month when the Center for Election Confidence released a nonpartisan study by Princeton professor Nolan McCarty, “Minority Electorates and Ranked Choice Voting.”

Applying rigorous data analysis to recent ranked-choice voting elections, Prof. McCarty shows minority ballots are, in fact, discarded at a higher rate than those of non-minorities under ranked-choice voting.

“Across a variety of electoral contexts in New York City and Alaska, I find consistent correlations between the ethnic and racial composition of a precinct and the share of exhausted ballots,” McCarty concluded. “These correlations are especially large when there are large numbers of candidates and when there are not strong co-ethnic candidates in the race.”

Within days of McCarty’s study being released, a Soros-backed group championing ranked-choice voting posted a competing study claiming just the opposite. FairVote counters with claims of ranked-choice voting’s positive effects on minority and female candidates. However, a closer examination by CEC fact checkers reveals substantial methodological issues and conflicting evidence.

FairVote contends that the introduction of ranked-choice voting has led to historic wins for candidates of color and women. Yet, the evidence presented lacks conclusiveness. The three ranked-choice voting cities highlighted in FairVote’s report are not representative, introducing selection bias, and are not compared to similar non-ranked-choice voting cities.

Comparative analysis with non-ranked-choice voting cities challenges the notion that ranked-choice voting is a key driver of increased minority and female representation. Additionally, the study fails to consider trends that existed prior to the adoption of ranked-choice voting and fails to consider demographic changes in ranked-choice voting cities.

FairVote claims that candidates of color benefit from ranked-choice voting’s counting process, citing an increase in vote share for Black candidates. However, the lack of disclosure regarding the sample of ranked-choice voting elections and small differences across racial groups raises questions about statistical significance.

Furthermore, the argument that minority candidates benefit more from coalition-building opportunities is questionable, as racially polarized voting may actually hinder minority influence.

The FairVote report asserts that minority candidates face no penalty when running against candidates of the same race due to disproportionate transfers of votes to candidates of the same race in later voting rounds.

This finding, however, may be a reflection of persisting racially polarized voting under ranked-choice voting, presenting a negative effect rather than a positive one. The lack of transparency in how transfer percentages are computed further complicates the evaluation of actual vote gains for minority candidates.

FairVote uses data from the 2023 Oakland mayoral race to claim that voters of color tend to rank more candidates in ranked-choice voting elections, but the data does not support the conclusions drawn by the report. While FairVote suggests this demonstrates robust choice by minority voters, it may actually indicate racially polarized voting. A broader analysis across ethnic and racial groups reveals no consistent pattern in ballot usage, emphasizing the need for nuanced interpretations.

In short, FairVote’s methodology lacks the depth and breadth required for a comprehensive evaluation — it wouldn’t stand up to the scientific inquiry standards of a high school science fair project.

The need for scientifically rigorous scholarship, as in Dr. McCarty’s report released by CEC, remains crucial for navigating the complexities of ranked-choice voting’s effects on minority candidates and voters and understanding how ranked-choice voting weakens minority influence.

No state or local government should adopt ranked-choice voting. It is a flawed voting scheme at best, and a cynical attempt to manipulate outcomes at worst.

Lisa Dixon is the Executive Director of the Center for Election Confidence. This column first ran in The Center Square.


  1. I won’t dignify the attempt to conflate race into this issue.

    Regardless of color, RCV is stupid and counter intuitive to equitable voting and treatment of said votes.

  2. Unless the minority candidate has the dominate state’s population voting for them then it is a friend. If the minority candidate doesn’t have the majority supporting them like in Peltola’s election, then it’ll reduce even less minority representation. In Alaska Natives only make 15 percent of the entire population while whites still make up 60 percent of the state’s population. That means minorities (people of color) need the white vote.
    That’s why when coming to US Senator and US congressional and Govenor race coming up Republicans gotta unite behind one candidate despite the differences within the group (hard right, moderate, Christian evangelist, rhino, conservative, lgbt Republican or straight Republican). That’s why the Alaska Republican Party needs now the right party chair with charisma, political astuteness, and character to repair and unify a splintered party whose leadership and membership tend to go off in all directions because of no core center anchoring one another to their party’s basic principles, values, and goals.

  3. This topic is going to be beat to death and permanently disappeared I hope!
    Ranked Choice Education Association covers this topic, has videos, handouts, and a newsletter.

  4. I wonder why FairVote chose Oakland, CA ?

    Could it be because it is 67.7% non-white ?

    What do think the stats would show ?

  5. “……… Almost everywhere it’s been tried, black Americans have alleged that their ballots are discarded at a higher rate than those of non-minority voters………”
    Gee, what a surprise. When one wants to find a boogeyman, there tends to be one under every bed in the house.

  6. “When we’re looking at the data, it looked like a lot of people, who clearly intended to vote a certain way, had their ballots tossed for overvotes because they made a mistake. And these mistakes trend in disenfranchised, marginalized communities.” Interesting that he doesn’t accuse anyone of discarding ballots that were properly filled out. Maybe the “marginalized” voters should try to understand how to properly complete a ballot because if they do it wrong and it gets discarded they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. Of course they blame everyone but themselves because they’re all “victims.” Not victims of racism…just victims of their own ignorance.

  7. Please disregard my question about comments being removed. When I first came to this page a minute ago, it said that there were zero comments and none were showing. Page refreshed and the comments showed up. Something seems to be whacky with the site. ?

    • Nothing odd, just that I have to skim through comments every few hours and post the civil ones, and discard the spammers. Takes time. Thanks for being patient. – sd

  8. If one must attempt to make a case of RCV discrimination, use California.

    Steve Garvey, Republican, is leading the Senate race. But since the next three are democrats, Adam Shiff will become their next Senator for California.

    So RCV does discriminate. Against Republicans.

    • I would disagree with your conclusion, but it isn’t even necessary because your premise is incorrect: Senate elections in California do not use RCV.

  9. Why does Republican Inc. waste so much energy on trying to fool people with these Polyanna arguments? After reading up on the caliber of lawyers that run the ‘Center for Election Confidence’ – I suppose this misleading black-worshiping schlock is to be expected. They should be informing the public about what RCV actually is – a political chemical weapon – rather than trying to jujitsu Democrats with fake racial arguments to win over a few black voters. What, am I supposed to be impressed with how much you worship MLK Jr? Spare me the virtue signalling.

    Lets use some reason. Even if the shaky premise -RCV bad for minorities- is true, why should right wing voters even care? Elections are a zero sum game. Enhancing racial minority voting power only reduces white influence, and minorities overwhelmingly vote left – so what is the angle? Are they arguing that RCV would be an acceptable system if racial minorities were benefiting?

    And its a misleading premise – last I checked, in Alaska, the natives were heavily in favor of this new voting system, and why wouldn’t they? They are typically in the Alaskan political minority, and now they have Peltola and Murkowski in their pocket. RCV did exactly what it was supposed to do, and the natives will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

    Don’t get me wrong, as amusing as it is to watch the NAACP make the argument that blacks are ‘too stupid’ to figure out RCV, this is just a tactic to preserve a Democrat stronghold. Democrats and the NAACP absolutely don’t want RCV in New York – because it would only benefit the conservative minority in that state.

    Much like chemical weapons, ranked voting is a weapon you unleash on your opponents’ home turf.

    • I don’t care for RCV. It’s close to, if not outright, election rigging. I’m all for the repeal.

      However, it was stupidly voted in, with a major assist from the PM radio host who knew better. At that point the GOP should have focused hard on teaching people who to use it, not complaining about it. But our GOP being what it is…

      Unfortunately we have to play by the rules of the game until we have the votes to change it.

  10. Suzanne, did you hear about the MOA’s elections procedure for being able to request a “temporary address” if you are out of town? What happened to the absentee ballot? Scroll down to the “Other Options to Vote” and look at the “Temporary Address” tab.

  11. I thought Queen Sarah said she was gonna make RCV repeal a major focus of hers.

    Anyone seen her since she slunk outta here after being embarrassed in the last election?

    • MA, why have you been bringing up Palin again when no one else is talking about her? Can’t you just leave her political grave alone?

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