In the past election cycle, ranked choice voting gained national attention for its use in Maine and ballot initiatives to bring it to the states of Massachusetts and Alaska. The next few episodes of YDHTY will feature people across the country looking to implement this process at the local level.

For this week's episode, I sat down with Susan Bottcher and John Severini of Rank My Vote Florida, an organization focused on promoting ranked choice voting across the state. You can listen to the episode below, on Spotify, iTunes, or find a full, unedited video of the episode on YouTube.

Show Notes

In 2007, citizens of Sarasota passed an initiative to have their mayoral race determined by ranked choice voting (also known as “instant runoff voting”). Their existing system consisted of a runoff election, where a second mayoral election would be called if no one candidate received more than 50% of the vote.

While the runoff system is great for ensuring candidates have to win a true majority of voters, it’s not so great in that it requires candidates to bear the cost of further campaigning and the city to bear the cost of an additional election.

Add to that the fact voter turnout in runoff elections is traditionally lower, and candidates are really only winning a true majority of a much smaller pool of voters, which really isn’t that true of a majority. 

Since passing 13 years ago, ranked choice voting has yet to be implemented. The first obstacle was having equipment to process the ballots - a common issue in municipalities looking to adopt RCV. This has since been resolved.

The second, more thornier issue around getting this implemented is Florida’s Constitution, which explicitly states that the winner of an election is the candidate who receives the plurality of votes. This means Sarasota needs approval from Florida’s Secretary of State in order to move forward.

Should the Secretary of State give the green light to Sarasota, the next step will be to promote RCV in municipal elections across the state.

In this sense, Rank My Vote Florida’s approach differs from statewide ballot initiatives we saw in Massachusetts and Alaska. While this means a slower path to adopting RCV in statewide and federal elections, it helps get voters acclimated to the concept before rolling it out to higher offices.

Given a common objection over ranked choice voting is that it’s too confusing, this strategy could defuse that argument while also providing a blueprint for states that can’t implement RCV via statewide ballot initiatives.

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