COVID-19 Might Not Sideline Expansion Of Ranked Choice Voting Reform In These Key States

The most well-known benefit of RCV is ensuring that the winner of an election receives support from the majority of voters. This is critical in heavily contested elections.


By ADAM EICHEN  |  July 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced democracy reformers to play defense, focusing their energy on the critical task of expanding vote-by-mail options and creating safe in-person polling locations. Most efforts to pursue non-emergency voting improvements have been put on hold.

In two states, though, advocates have a real opportunity to advance democracy in a bold way.

Ranked choice voting (RCV) will likely appear on the 2020 ballot in both Massachusetts and Alaska. This transformative reform, successfully implemented in Maine in 2018 and hopefully expanding further this year, would allow voters to rank candidates for state and federal office in order of preference. When the results are tallied, if no candidate receives more than 50% of the first place votes, then the last place vote-getter is eliminated and his or her votes are reallocated according to second choices. This process continues until one candidate has earned over 50 percent support. (Massachusetts’ measure would not apply to the presidential race).

The movement for RCV in Massachusetts has been years in the making. Since 2016, organizers have traveled across the commonwealth. They have held hundreds of informational sessions, trained countless volunteers, and secured bipartisan support from some of the state’s political leaders, including Sen. Ed Markey (D), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D), Rep. Joe Kennedy (D), former governors Deval Patrick (D) and Bill Weld (R), and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin (D).

Talking Points Memo