Introduction to Ranked Choice Voting
(Based on an information from FairVote January 2017)

Ranked choice voting (RCV), sometimes known as Instant Runoff Voting, is a proven, constitutionally sound system that gives voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice. RCV is used in cities across the United States, and Maine adopted RCV for statewide elections in 2016. Voters in these jurisdictions can get majority winners in one election, not two. It encourages winner to reach out to more voters and not win just by winning a minority of the vote.

How Does Ranked Choice Voting Work?

Better Elections

RCV improves the relationship between candidates and votes.

  • Promotes Fairness. Results are grounded in majority rule. This means the winner is more representative.
  • Fosters Civility. RCV encourages civil elections. Candidates have more incentives to debate the issues.
  • No Spoiler Effect. Voting for a candidate in third place or lower doesn’t “split the vote” for the majority.

Ranked choice voting ensures that elected leaders in special elections will be more likely to represent the interests of Hawaii voters.

How Ranked Choice Voting Could Work in Special Elections in Hawaii

Currently, special elections for U.S. House elections in Hawaii are conducted in one round, without a primary. The winner is the candidate who wins the most votes, even if that vote total is far less than half of the votes. That means a candidate can win election to federal office with less than 40% of the vote.

Using ranked choice voting in special elections for the U.S. House would start when that election is not consolidated with a regularly scheduled primary or general. With ranked choice voting, voters would rank the candidates in order of choice, from first to last. If a candidate has a majority of first choices, they win like in any election. If not, then the candidate with the fewest votes is defeated. Votes for the defeated candidate instantly count for their second choice. That repeats until a candidate wins with a majority. Until Hawaii has precinct-level voting equipment ready to get an “instant runoff” result (as done in Bay Area cities), ranked choice voting would be used in tandem with vote-by-mail elections.

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