Here’s How A Few Ballot Measures Could Upend Future Elections In Numerous States

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Correction: This article misidentified the ACLU of Nevada as a supporter of the state’s ranked-choice voting initiative, and has subsequently been removed from the story. We regret the error.

Activists and left-leaning groups are hoping to get ranked-choice voting (RCV) on the ballot in numerous states, which, if passed, would radically alter how elections are conducted across the country.

The RCV model requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference, with several rounds of counting to follow if no choice initially receives a majority of the vote. Nevada and Oregon will have statewide RCV initiatives on the 2024 ballot, and several other jurisdictions, including Montana and Washington, D.C., are considering similar measures — all of which have been funded by left-wing organizations. (RELATED: DC Dems’ Lawsuit Says New Voting Reform Could Cause ‘Confusion’ For Black Voters)

Two states already use RCV in their statewide elections — Alaska and Maine — and dozens of other localities use the system, including 53 counties and cities, according to The Council of State Governments. New York City, New York, Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California are among the prominent jurisdictions that use RCV.

Many conservatives argue RCV can be confusing to voters, isn’t secure and primarily benefits Democrats, while proponents believe the system could be beneficial in the nominating process.

“[RCV] is the wrong choice for elections, because it makes the entire process more difficult and harder to trust,” Trent England, executive director of pro-Electoral College group Save Our States, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “RCV puts a burden on voters, with far more complicated ballots that take longer to figure out. The system is also harder for poll workers and election officials. And it’s harder to trust RCV results after a computer has run multiple rounds of counting, adjusting, and recounting ballot data.”

If no candidate receives over 50% of the share, the individual with the least amount of votes is eliminated. Ballots for this candidate go to the voters’ second choice, and the process continues until a candidate garners a majority.

Voters in Nevada will decide on establishing an open “Top-Five” primary system, where candidates run together regardless of party affiliation, and RCV in the general election. The five candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election, where they will be ranked by preference.

California holds a similar open primary system for its statewide, state legislative and U.S. congressional races, which it calls “voter-nominated” offices. The top two vote-getters in the primary move on to the general election, which some conservatives criticize as solidifying one-party rule in the blue state.

Nevadans already approved of the ballot measure in 2022 with roughly 53% support, but the state requires such initiatives to be approved twice in a general election to take effect.

Oregon will also see a RCV ballot measure for its elections across the state in November. The initiative represents the first time a state legislature has put a statewide RCV measure on the ballot.

The RCV initiative passed in the state legislature in 2023 with the support from nearly all Democrats and only one Republican. If approved by voters, RCV would be implemented in all of Oregon’s elections starting in 2028.

Since implementing RCV across their respective states, Alaska and Maine have flipped two congressional seats from Republican to Democrat.

“[RCV] is a convoluted system that makes it harder to vote and turns elections into a black box, damaging public trust in election outcomes,” Jason Snead, executive director of election integrity group Honest Elections Project, told the DCNF. “At the end of the day, RCV is a left-wing scam dressed up as a bipartisan reform. All across the country, the left’s largest donors are paying conservative activists and lobbyists to sell the public on [RCV]. In truth, [RCV] is a scheme to push politics to the left and give even more power and influence to the elite liberal megadonors who are spending millions to promote it.”

One of the biggest advocates of RCV is FairVote, a Maryland-based organization that describes itself as nonpartisan. FairVote, which is not required to disclose its donors, maintains that it receives funding from individuals and groups across the political spectrum, and has support from Democrats, Republicans and independents.

However, FairVote’s last three audits show the nonprofit receiving funding only from left-leaning groups, including Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the Tides Foundation, Arnold Ventures, Unite America Institute, the Thornburg Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.

While Republicans like former Virginia Gov. George Allen, former Arizona Sen. John McCain and Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher are listed as supporters of RCV on FairVote’s website, the majority of the endorsers appear to be left-leaning politicians — former President Barack Obama, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, members of the “Squad,” numerous Democratic House members and several former and current Democratic governors.

The nonprofit conducts research and advocates for voting reform to make “democracy more functional and representative for every American,” according to its website. The national organization provides data, research and best practices to various state and local voting reform groups to advance RCV, and also helped implement the system in Democratic presidential primaries across the country in 2020.

Nevadans for Election Reform is FairVote’s allied group listed on its website, and is also a “coalition partner” with the local campaign Nevada Voters First.

Unite America, another left-leaning group that works to promote open primaries and RCV, contributed $207,650 to the local campaign in 2023, according to the Nevada Secretary of State. The group’s political action committee (PAC) and several affiliated individuals gave millions more to Nevada Voters First the year before.

RepresentUS, a liberal group, has also supported the ballot measure in Nevada.

In the Beaver State, Oregon Ranked Choice Voting is the local campaign for the state’s ballot measure, and is also listed as FairVote’s allied group.

Oregonians for Better Elections, a PAC now known as Oregonians for Ranked Choice Voting, receives funding from both Unite America PAC and FairVote Action, according to the Oregon secretary of State. The PAC has transferred funds to the local campaign, including a total of $59,000 in 2022.

The ACLU of Oregon and the Oregon Progressive Party are among the various left-wing groups that supported the measure’s “legislative referral.”

“[RCV] is a smarter way to vote that has been used by Republicans all over the country to great success,” Brian Cannon, FairVote’s director of Advocacy, told the DCNF. “Simply put, ranked choice voting makes our elections better by giving voters a stronger voice. That’s a good thing whether you’re a voter casting a ballot or a party trying to nominate the strongest possible candidate.”

Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina use RCV for military and overseas ballots, according to the Council of State Governments.

Virginia used RCV in its 2021 Republican gubernatorial convention, where GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin received a majority of votes in the sixth round of voting. Youngkin went on to defeat former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the general election by two points, becoming the state’s first Republican governor since 2009.

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Montanans for Election Reform is gathering signatures to get a measure on the ballot in November that would implement an open “Top-Four” primary system where the four candidates who receive the most support in the nominating contest will move on to the general election. Another initiative could also be on the ballot that would require candidates receive a majority of votes to win an election as opposed to just a plurality.

RCV advocates in Montana hope that the passage of the two ballot measures will “create a viable opportunity” to advance RCV through the state legislature in early 2025. The group allied with FairVote is Ranked Choice Voting Montana.

Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-wing group in Arabella Advisors’ dark money network, contributed $30,350 for in-kind polling research to the Montanans for Election Reform Action Fund in November 2023, according to the state’s Campaign Electronic Reporting System (CERS). Action Now, Inc., another liberal group founded by John and Laura Arnold, gave the local campaign a total of $362,000 in late 2023.

Montanans for Election Reform Action Fund did receive one $2,500 contribution from the Teton County Republican Central Committee, according to CERS.

Voters in Washington, D.C., may have the chance to vote on an RCV ballot measure in November. The measure would open up district primary elections to all voters and not just to voters registered with a particular party. The D.C. Council would have to appropriate funds for the “projected costs” of the new system for it to be implemented.

In a twist, the D.C. Democratic Party is suing to keep the RCV measure, which Make All Votes Count DC is gathering signatures for, off the ballot in November.

FairVote’s allied group is Rank The Vote DC, which gave the local campaign $6,500 for in-kind contributions on Jan. 27, according to Washington, D.C.’s, Office of Campaign Finance.

Two FairVote senior employees donated to Make All Votes Count DC in December, with co-founder Rob Richie and Director of Research and Policy Deborah Otis donating $250.51 each, according to filings. FairVote Action gave the local campaign $25,000 in October, as well as $1,316 on Jan. 31.

Make All Votes Count DC pointed the DCNF toward its latest financial disclosure upon request for comment, and maintained that RCV is a “nonpartisan election reform tool.”

Similar RCV initiatives could make their way onto the general election ballot in Missouri, Idaho and Colorado.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party used RCV in its Feb. 8 presidential caucus, where former President Donald Trump beat former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley 73.98% to 26.02%.

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, who helped put together the GOP caucus in the U.S. Virgin Islands, supports implementing RCV in nominating processes, but not in general elections under the current circumstances.

“The beauty of [RCV] is, in practice, you never waste the vote unless you want to. So if you rank everybody running, you will never waste your vote,” Anuzis told the DCNF. “You can vote for the longest shot candidate, and as they drop out, your second or third or fourth vote may become the vote that actually counts, and it makes a difference in the election. And I think that’s pretty cool, because it allows you to be much more philosophical in your voting.”

Anuzis works alongside FairVote, advocating for RCV in the nominating process, and believes such a system in the nominating process serves as “a very powerful value-add to party building.”

Some jurisdictions that have been using RCV in their elections are now attempting to roll it back, including Oakland, California, where residents are gathering signatures for a ballot measure to repeal the system for their local elections in November. Another ballot measure in Alaska would eliminate the state’s top-four primaries and RCV in general elections, which the state is currently verifying signatures for.

Nevada Voters First, Oregon Ranked Choice Voting and Montanans for Election Reform did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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