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Phillips Introduces Bill to Promote Ranked Choice Voting

Today, Representative Dean Phillips (MN-03), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Senator Angus King (I-ME) introduced bicameral legislation to support local and state governments that choose to transition to a ranked choice voting (RCV) model for elections. The Voter Choice Act would provide $40 million in federal grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for local and state governments that voluntarily choose to transition to RCV.

In most U.S. elections a simple plurality is needed to win, creating outcomes that often fail to represent the desires of close to half of all voters and allow third party candidates to perversely act as “spoilers”. RCV addresses such deficiencies by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate earns a majority of first choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated. In a second count, voters who chose the eliminated candidate will be counted for their second choice – and the process repeats until one candidate earns a majority. Evidence suggests that by rewarding candidates for appealing to a broad swathe of voters RCV can discourage extreme partisanship, incent a greater focus on substantive issues, and ensure that election winners better reflect the views of most voters.

In Minnesota’s Third District, Bloomington and Minnetonka are considering RCV this year. Last week, Rep. Phillips joined a bipartisan group of Minnesota political and business leaders in calling for RCV for presidential primaries in a Star Tribune opinion piece.

 “Restoring faith in government begins with improving our electoral system.” said Phillips. “Ranked Choice Voting is simple, empowers voters, and rewards candidates who broaden support beyond their base. This bill provides resources to communities seeking change without pressuring any that do not. I am proud to work with Sens. Bennet and King on this important initiative and will advocate for its passage in the House.”

“The success of RCV in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park in Minnesota over the past decade has helped lead the way for the reform nationwide,” said Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote, said. “We are grateful to Rep. Phillips and Senators Kings and Bennet for their vision and support for these efforts to make our electoral system more inclusive, civil, and representative.”

“A partisan fever is imperiling our democracy,” said Bennet. “I believe ranked choice voting can lower the temperature by giving voters more choices, discouraging slash-and-burn politics, and rewarding candidates who appeal to a broad majority of voters. Our bill encourages states and local governments that wish to adopt this promising reform.” 

“When it comes down to it, Ranked Choice Voting is essentially an instant runoff – with the added benefit of capturing the voters’ priorities on election day, and without the added expense of a completely new election,” said King. “By incentivizing candidates to build consensus rather than amplify divisions, we can take important steps to de-escalate the polarized political conflict we see all around us. If state and local governments choose to pursue Ranked Choice Voting, I’m all for helping them implement the process.”

To date, Maine has adopted RCV for all federal elections, while states like Alabama and South Carolina have embraced RCV to allow overseas and military voters to participate in runoff elections. In addition to Minnesota, local governments in Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee have also adopted some RCV for municipal elections.

The text of the legislation is available HERE. A one-page summary of the legislation is available HERE.