Ranked Choice Voting, also called Instant Runoff Voting, is essentially the ability to vote for more than one candidate, ranking each by order of preference. If no candidate achieves a majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated. Anyone who selected that candidate as his or her first choice would have that vote allocated to the second choice candidate. This process continues until one candidate achieves a clear majority.
Our current system allows you to choose only one candidate for each position. If we could select and rank more than one candidate, regardless of political party, here are some benefits we could see in future elections:
Elected officials have a legitimate majority
Under our current system officials often end up winning more by default than by popular vote. A Ranked Choice Voting system would make the election process more competitive, giving candidates incentive to appeal to voters at large, rather than to simply meet the needs of a select few. The result would be better legitimacy to the ultimate outcome because the winner actually receives a majority of votes cast and has worked to earn those votes.
Utahns have sensed the need to make changes to the voting process and through efforts of like-minded people a law is currently in place which allows candidates to get on the ballot through signature gathering as well as through party caucuses. This is a good step toward progress since, previous to this change, many good candidates were eliminated by a political party caucus. Voters at large, even those registered with a particular party, were not always given the choice to vote for good candidates.
As great as this step is, there is room for improvement. The law as it stands says that a candidate can win the election with just 35% of the vote. If no candidate clears that bar, then a run off is declared between the top two candidates. This system isn't ideal because 35% is not even close to a majority. If an election does not have a candidate who receives 35% or more, and there is a run off, these run off elections are expensive for candidates and for the state, with lower voter participation rates than regular elections. The result of a run off does not necessarily reflect a true winner.
Through the Ranked Choice Voting system we could see a better variety of candidates because everyone would be given an equal opportunity to win your vote. Candidates who rise to the top would have appealed to more voters and would likely do a better job representing Utah at the local, state, and federal levels.
Increased voter participation
Change can be daunting and for some the idea of Ranked Choice Voting might seem confusing. Luckily, the idea is hardly new and is currently being used in Maine as well as several cities throughout the country. Studies have already been conducted on the impact Ranked Choice Voting has on voter turn out, and the results show an increase in participation when compared to traditional models.
Less negative campaigning
Ranked Choice Voting tends to favor more moderate political discourse overall because candidates can't only appeal to their own voter base in order to win. Candidates under the Ranked Choice Voting system need to be concerned with being the second choice of voters beyond their own base.
No Throw Away Votes
If you've ever wanted to vote for an independent or other party candidate but didn't, it's likely you were afraid of throwing away your vote. The Ranked Choice Voting approach allows you to vote for and rank several candidates so that if your first choice doesn't win, your vote is still given to your second or third choice candidate. Under the Ranked Choice Voting process every vote is counted, every vote matters - to every candidate.