Bennet, King, Phillips Introduce Bill to Promote Ranked Choice Voting

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Angus King (I-Maine), along with U.S. Representative Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), introduced The Voter Choice Act to support local and state governments that choose to transition to a ranked choice voting (RCV) model for elections. 

The Voter Choice Act provides $40 million in federal grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for local and state governments that voluntarily choose to transition to RCV. 

“A partisan fever is imperiling our democracy,” said Bennet. “I believe ranked choice voting can lower the temperature by giving voters more choices, discouraging slash-and-burn politics, and rewarding candidates who appeal to a broad majority of voters. Our bill encourages states and local governments that wish to adopt this promising reform.” 

“When it comes down to it, Ranked Choice Voting is essentially an instant runoff – with the added benefit of capturing the voters’ priorities on election day, and without the added expense of a completely new election,” said King. “By incentivizing candidates to build consensus rather than amplify divisions, we can take important steps to de-escalate the polarized political conflict we see all around us. If state and local governments choose to pursue Ranked Choice Voting, I’m all for helping them implement the process.” 

“Restoring faith in government begins with improving our electoral system,” said Phillips. “Ranked Choice Voting is simple, empowers voters, and rewards candidates who broaden support beyond their base. This bill provides resources to communities seeking change without pressuring any that do not. I am proud to work with Sens. Bennet and King on this important initiative and will advocate for its passage in the House.”  

In most U.S. elections today, the candidate with the most votes wins. Under this system, a candidate can win even if they receive far less than a majority of all votes cast. Moreover, voters supporting third parties can inadvertently hand victory to candidates with views diametrically opposed to their own. This can make elections less representative of the voters and discourage political competition. 

Instead of voting for a single candidate, RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate earns a majority after counting first choices, the last-place candidate is eliminated. Voters for the eliminated candidate then have their ballot count for their next choice. The process repeats until one candidate earns a majority. Early evidence suggests that, by rewarding candidates for appealing to a broad swath of voters, RCV can discourage extreme partisanship, incent a greater focus on substantive issues, and ensure that election winners better reflect the views of most voters.  

To date, Maine has adopted RCV for all federal elections, while states like Alabama and South Carolina have embraced RCV to allow overseas and military voters to participate in runoff elections. Local governments in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Tennessee have also adopted some form of RCV for municipal elections.

“By introducing the Voter Choice Act, US Senator Bennet is standing up for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a proven election reform that is used across America. RCV frees Americans to cast ballots for candidates they love the most, without fear of helping to elect candidates they like the least. In the places that have transitioned to RCV, we are seeing better results: voter satisfaction increases dramatically, campaigns become more issue-focused, and more voters turn out. Our politically diverse grassroots organization, made up of Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, is grateful to Senator Bennet for supporting this political freedom that every American deserves,” said Linda Templin, Executive Director of Ranked Choice Voting for Colorado. 

“At a time when zero-sum hyper-partisanship is breaking American democracy, ranked-choice voting offers a rare glimmer of hope. It's a proven way to build more consensus-oriented politics and incentivize positive-sum problem-solving. And perhaps most important, it gives voters more choices and strengthens accountability and competition in our democracy. The Voter Choice Act of 2020 is a tremendous step forward in repairing our fractured democracy,” said Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow, New America

“FairVote applauds this major contribution to the expanded use and successful implementation of ranked choice voting. We are thrilled to see so many new jurisdictions considering RCV, and providing systematic support to ensure voters have a good experience with their use of RCV would be immensely important,” said Rob Ritchie, President and CEO of FairVote

“I applaud the leadership of Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Angus King, and Congressman Dean Phillips in introducing the Voter Choice Act to assist local and state governments transitioning to Rank Choice Voting (RCV). For the past quarter of a century, extreme partisanship and political polarization in our political system have too often led to government paralysis and a national consensus that government no longer works at the federal level. To restore public confidence and make our government work again, we must maximize citizen participation in our elections and encourage elected officials to truly represent the interests of all their constituents. RCV enables voters to support their first choice without the risk of inadvertently helping elect their last choice and thereby discourages negative campaigning by rewarding candidates who through consensus-building become the second choice for supporters of their opponents. RCV has worked well in more than a dozen municipalities across the country, and has recently been adopted by the state of Maine and New York City. By helping local and state governments transition to RCV, The Voter Choice Act would help provide more evidence-based research to guide other jurisdictions as they consider structural and systemic electoral reforms to strengthen American democracy,” said Ralph G. Neas, former CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and People For the American Way. 

The text of the legislation is available HERE. A one-page summary of the legislation is available HERE.