Maine became the first state in the nation to use ranked choice voting in statewide elections in June. The historic moment has boosted interest in alternative voting methods that offer better election results and an improved system for choosing elected officials.
In response to IVN's coverage of Maine ranked choice voting (as well as the growing interest in the reform), a number of other voting methods have been suggested as well -- Approval Voting, Range Voting (also known as Score Voting), STAR Voting, along with others that have not yet been introduced in the US.
For the purposes of simplicity, let's look at the 4 voting methods specifically named above (including Ranked Choice Voting).
1. Ranked Choice Voting (Instant Runoff Voting)
There are actually multiple types of voting methods that allow voters to rank their choices in elections. However, when we talk about Ranked Choice Voting in the US, we are specifically talking about Instant Runoff Voting.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is simpler than opponents would have people believe: Voters rank their choices in order of preference. Then one or more rounds of automatic runoffs are conducted if no one gets over 50% of the vote, with the last place candidate being eliminated after each round.
Advocates say RCV greatly reduces the spoiler effect, saves taxpayers and the government time, money, and resources that would be spent on additional runoff elections, and creates a civil campaign environment as candidates also seek voters' second choice.
Ranked choice voting is currently used in a dozen local jurisdictions and in Maine.
2. Approval Voting
Approval Voting is simpler. Voters pick as many candidates as they want (all the candidates they approve of) and the candidate with the most votes wins. Doesn't get much simpler.
Advocates say Approval Voting eliminates the spoiler effect, along with "tactical voting," and is fairer to third party and independent candidates.
3. Range Voting / Score Voting
Range Voting or Score Voting is similarly simple. Range Voting is like rating products on Amazon. Voters assign candidates a number of stars (up to 5) based on their level of support for that candidate -- 0 would indicate no support, while 5 would indicate maximum support. The candidate with the highest average rating wins.
Advocates say that this, like Approval Voting, eliminates the spoiler effect. The key factors that set range voting apart from Ranked Choice Voting and Approval Voting are:
1. Voters can score more than one candidate the same, meaning that if they equally like Candidates A and B, they don't rank them -- which would suggest they like one over the other.
2. Voters may approve of multiple candidates, but they may not rate them the same. For instance, a voter may like Candidate A and Candidate B, but would give Candidate A five stars, while giving Candidate B 4, indicating that they have slightly higher support for Candidate A.
Advocates say this results in more accurate representation of voters' opinions.
4. STAR Voting
STAR (Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff) Voting is very similar to range voting. Voters assign each candidate a rating of 0-5 stars. The difference is that the two candidates who score the highest move on to an automatic runoff. The finalist who is scored the highest by the most voters wins.
STAR Voting is not currently used by any jurisdiction in the US. However, it was introduced in Oregon, and garnered enough signatures in Lane County to qualify for the November ballot, meaning voters could soon use this new voting method.
Advocates say that when you look at 5 qualities of reform (Equality, Honesty, Accuracy, Simplicity, and Expressiveness), STAR Voting ranks the best.
The beauty of election reform and having 50 sovereign states and thousands of sovereign local jurisdictions is that each can act as a laboratory of democracy for us to experiment. This means Ranked Choice Voting can be used in Maine, Approval Voting in Fargo, and STAR Voting in Lane County, Oregon, and we can see which method works better for voters.