Washington, D.C. — Following Election Day, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Angus King (I-Maine) reintroduced the Voter Choice Act to support adoption of a ranked choice voting (RCV) model for elections, also known as an “instant runoff.” The Voter Choice Act provides $40 million in federal grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for state and local governments that choose to adopt RCV.
“As partisanship continues to harm our democracy and impede progress, we need to make government work for the American people,” said Bennet. “Ranked choice voting gives people more options at the ballot box, increases political competition, eliminates costly runoffs, and rewards candidates who appeal to the broadest swath of voters. Our bill provides vital support for states and local governments that choose to make this important transition.”
“In the face of threats that undercut the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans, we must act to protect our democracy,” said King. “The Voter Choice Act would help communities advance the vast majority of voters’ priorities by instituting ranked choice voting, like the system that Maine already uses for its primary and federal elections. In such a polarized political climate, this bill would force candidates to appeal to a broader swath of their electorate rather than a small, outspoken faction. We must continue working towards improving our great democracy and that begins with restoring faith in our electoral system.”
In most U.S. elections, a candidate can win without receiving a majority of votes cast, and are often motivated to attack their opponents rather than make a compelling case to the public. 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 and voters for the eliminated candidate then have their ballot count for their next choice. The process repeats until one candidate earns a majority. 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.
RCV is the fastest-growing election reform in America. As of July 2023, RCV has reached 51 jurisdictions home to 13 million voters, including Basalt, Boulder, Broomfield, Carbondale, and Telluride, Colorado.
“The Voter Choice Act is a sensible way to support the fastest-growing nonpartisan voting reform in the country,” said Deb Otis, Director of Research and Policy, FairVote. “Ranked choice voting makes our elections better by giving voters better choices and rewarding candidates who run issues-driven campaigns. While most cities actually save money by using RCV to replace runoffs or two-round contests, the Voter Choice Act will give more Americans the opportunity to try RCV – by helping to offset any voter education and implementation costs with approaches that further boost election security and voter confidence."
"Ranked Choice Voting is one of the most promising reform options for reducing our crippling levels of political polarization in the United States. As more and more American cities (and now states) adopt RCV, voters are finding that they like its democratic features. RCV offers voters more choice, more voice, less negative campaigns, and more broadly appealing outcomes, since winners must ultimately win support from a majority of voters. By allocating federal funds to help state and local governments with the transition to RCV, the Voter Choice Act would make an important contribution to the repair and renewal of American democracy," said Larry Diamond, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Stanford University.
"The Voter Choice Act is an essential data-driven strategy to advance women's representation and leadership in politics. Women are getting elected at higher rates in jurisdictions with Ranked Choice Voting because more women run, split votes among women candidates are eliminated, campaigns are more affordable and less negative, and those elected have a true mandate to govern -- all building blocks for a 21st century democracy," said Cynthia Richie Terrell, Founder and CEO, RepresentWomen.
"The Voter Choice Act provides financial support for local and state governments to expand options and choice for voters. In primary elections and other elections where there are numerous candidates running, ranked choice voting ensures that voters can prioritize their selections. Further, more Americans are voting before Election Day than ever before and especially in presidential primaries where candidates start to drop out before Election Day, ranked choice voting ensures the voters’ preferences are reflected in the counting process. Simply put, the VCA is a positive step forward in the movement to put voters first and ensure all voices are heard in the voting process," said Amber McReynolds, former Colorado election official and co-author of When Women Vote.
“I applaud the leadership of Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Angus King 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, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Senior Advisor to the CEO, Voiceitt Technologies; and National Consultant, Save Our Republic.
“Bringing more fairness to our system of voting is an ongoing effort. By implementing RCV in cities and counties across Colorado, we will give voters more choice and more voice in our elections. Our communities, particularly rural ones, need federal assistance to build a stronger system for future generations," said Linda Templin, Executive Director, RCV for Colorado.