Originally published at Gem State Wire (Aug. 24, 2023)
To the Left, the golden rule of politics is that if you can’t win by the current rules, change ‘em. It’s why activists are working overtime to embed a ranked-choice voting initiative in the 2024 ballot, with one goal in mind: Sending a far-left Democrat to represent Idaho in Washington, D.C.
Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is the Left’s favorite tool for electing Democrats in ruby-red states they otherwise couldn’t win. “Progressives” enshrined RCV in conservative Alaska while simultaneously battling it in blue D.C. Why? Because D.C. activists correctly recognize that RCV would “undermine the strength of Democrats” and effectively “disenfranchise” minority voters.
Not so in Alaska, the Left’s favorite RCV “success” story. Outside “dark money” groups in California, New York, and Colorado outspent local conservatives 12-1 to implement RCV there in 2020, yet only won by less than 3,800 votes
Two years later, RCV paid dividends for the Left by electing Alaska’s first Democratic congresswoman in nearly 50 years, Mary Peltola, something the New York Times gleefully credits to the state’s RCV policy. Nearly 59 percent of voters in that race cast their ballot for a Republican, yet ended up with a Democrat who won less than 40 percent of all votes cast.
That’s the “magic” of ranked-choice voting in action—you never know who will emerge victorious amidst the resulting chaos.
The leftists backing Reclaim Idaho, the group pushing RCV, are counting on just such confusion to elect Democrats in Idaho’s upcoming House and legislative races.
Reclaim Idaho, which actually sells its proposal as an “Alaska-style ranked choice system” pretends to be a “nonpartisan open government group.” That’s cover for a bald-faced lie: This is a campaign by die-hard “progressives” whose Democratic candidates who want to import Portland values to Idaho.
Reclaim Idaho admits as much, sneering on its website that RCV would “end Idaho’s closed Republican primary,” advance leftist candidates to the final ballot, and target the state’s “broken political system that generates so much injustice year after year.”
But can these ideologues even explain how ranked-choice voting works? It’s worth asking. In my home state, Virginia, Democrats in Arlington County boldly adopted RCV earlier this year for our November ballot—only to drop it in July. Why? Even the election board responsible for the experiment couldn’t explain how RCV worked
Here’s how it actually works. Instead of casting a ballot for a single candidate per office—as Americans have done for centuries—RCV tasks voters with voting for every candidate on the ballot, dramatically complicating a responsible voter’s pre-election research. That might mean stacking as many as 5 candidates on a 1–5 scale beginning with your top pick, many of whom will likely represent the same party and split the Republican vote—as happened in Alaska last year. Tabulators take those results and run through a series of rounds, with each round dropping off the lowest vote-getter until the final candidate is declared the winner.
Understandably, many voters decline to fill in more than 1 or 2 bubbles, and so their votes become abandoned as more rounds continue. Is that fair?
Tabulating RCV ballots requires opaque algorithms and new software which make the outcome difficult to guess and risk more hard-to-catch mistakes. That exact scenario played out last year in Oakland, California, where a mistake in the county’s RCV tallying system led to a third-place finisher being declared the winner a month after the November election. Oops.
RCV advocates claim their system will restore trust in election outcomes. The way RCV advocates talk about our current system, however, one would think America hasn’t run a free and fair election in nearly two-and-a-half centuries. But in a 4-person race using RCV, no candidate will gain 50 percent of the vote or anything like a popular-vote mandate.
And that’s the point. RCV is the brainchild of far-left activists at FairVote, which also aims to abolish the Electoral College and enact automatic voter registration laws—virtually guaranteeing Democratic election victories for generations—with heavy funding from leftist mega-donors. Their goal is to empower radical Democrats, not help Americans vote.
There’s no need to fundamentally transform Idaho’s elections just because it suits the Left. What we need is to button up the security of our elections, tighten restrictions on mail-in ballots, and defeat radical Democrats in 2024—not make our elections more inscrutable and less trustworthy.
Stop ranked-choice voting.