Elections, West Virginia Legislature

Senate committee advances bill to prohibit ranked-choice voting

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Government Organization Committee took a swipe at ranked-choice voting on Thursday, advancing a bill to prohibit the practice in local government elections.

SB 593 is the bill, and says local governments may not use ranked-choice voting for any local, state or federal election.

It defines the method at length: “Tabulation proceeds in rounds such that in each round either a candidate or candidates are elected, or the last-place candidate is defeated; votes are transferred from elected or defeated candidates to the voters’ next ranked candidate or candidates in order of preference; and tabulation ends when a candidate receives the majority of votes cast or the number of candidates elected equals the number of offices to be filled.”

A website called Divided We Fall presents essays for and against ranked-choice voting, abbreviated RCV.

The pro-RCV essay says “The more candidates there are in a traditional election, the easier it becomes for the winner to have a weak plurality of support. RCV, by contrast, elects candidates who have the most support across the entire electorate. By ensuring votes are not wasted, voters under an RCV system can be sure that elections are won by candidates with the most support.

It continues, “With RCV, voters need not vote against their preferred choice in fear of splitting the vote. Rather, they simply rank their honest preferences, knowing that if their first choice doesn’t have enough support, their second choice will receive their vote.”

The Foundation for Government Accountability says this against RCV: “Casting a vote in an RCV election is difficult. Instructions for RCV ballots are generally cumbersome, often confusing voters. Because the process of filling out the ballot is difficult to understand, error rates for RCV elections remain higher than those of traditional elections. This results in more citizens having their votes thrown away because of an overly complex system.

It continues, “Because of ballot exhaustion, winners of RCV races do not necessarily represent the choice of all voters who participated. RCV claims to protect majority rule, but in reality, RCV creates an artificial majority by eliminating the votes of the lowest-scoring candidates during successive tabulations.”

Committee counsel told the senators that 17 states allow RCV in local elections. Florida, Montana, South Dakota and Tennessee prohibit it.

The committee approved the bill in a voice vote without debate and it goes next to Judiciary.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com