A measure recently passed by Oregon Democrats has put the state one step closer to adopting ranked-choice voting (RCV) for its future elections.
Under RCV, often dubbed “rigged-choice voting” by its critics, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round of voting, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and his votes are reallocated to the voter’s second-choice candidate. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
HB 2004, which was passed by Oregon Democrats in the waning days of the 2023 legislative session, would mandate RCV for federal and statewide elections. The measure also gives localities the ability to adopt the system for their respective elections.
If approved by voters in 2024, the bill would take effect on Jan. 1, 2028.
Various U.S. municipalities that have adopted RCV have experienced confusing and even inaccurate election outcomes. In an Oakland school board race, for instance, “election officials announced — two months after the fact — that they got the count wrong,” resulting in the “rightful winner … suing for his seat.” Meanwhile, a Utah town that used an RCV pilot program for its 2021 municipal elections experienced high rates of ballots being discarded or spoiled.
In the Genola City Council Race 1, for example, “58% of ballots were either discarded out of hand or otherwise spoiled,” while the Genola City Council Race 2 “had a discarded or spoiled rate of over 74%.”
Alaska and Maine — the only two states to implement ranked-choice voting so far — have also had their fair share of problems, such as election outcomes that contradict the will of voters. In Alaska, Democrat Mary Peltola won the state’s at-large congressional seat last year even though “nearly 60 percent of voters [cast] their ballots for a Republican.” RCV also played a major role in helping Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski win reelection during the 2022 midterms.
Similarly, in Maine, then-incumbent GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin lost to Democrat Jared Golden during the 2018 midterms, despite Poliquin winning the most votes in the first round of voting. That outcome was due to the state’s ranked-choice voting system.