Scope: Ranked voting keeps growing. It’s about time SC expanded its use here. | comment

I usually write about the immediate runoff during primary elections because the idea of ​​letting voters rank their choices, thereby avoiding the trip back to the polls two weeks later to vote in a runoff, has traditionally been used in primary elections.

But the 2022 election brought some exciting advances for this rapidly evolving voting method, which just six years ago was used by just 10 jurisdictions across the country.


Editorial: This voting shortcut works for the SC military;  it might work for the rest of us.

This month, voters approved a voting measure to make Nevada the third state in the nation to allow for immediate runoff, also known as ranking. Like Alaska, Nevada will go beyond this simple change and introduce an entirely new system that combines ranked voting with the elimination of the traditional partisan primaries. (More on that in a moment.)



Scope mugshot (copy)

Cindi Ross Scope


Meanwhile, six other local governments have introduced immediate runoff voting, according to advocacy group FairVote: Fort Collins, Colorado; Evanston, Illinois; Portland, Maine; Ojai, California; and Portland and Multnomah County, Oregon. It led in a referendum in Seattle that was still being counted at the end of the week.

That means the ranking ballot has now been approved for 63 jurisdictions, including Nevada, Alaska and Maine, and covers nearly 20 million people, making it “the fastest-growing, nonpartisan voting reform in the country,” according to FairVote President Rob Richie.

Among those 63 jurisdictions, you might recall, is South Carolina, which along with five other Southern states stretching west to Arkansas and Louisiana offer mail-in ballots with immediate runoff in the military and foreign primary primary.


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Critics have always complained that the system is overly complicated, but it’s much more complicated to explain than actually do: if there are more than two candidates on the ballot, you vote for the first choice and then declare the second choice, and so on further down as you want. When a candidate wins 50% plus one, the election is over. If not, the votes for the last-placed candidate are removed and those voters’ second-choice votes are allocated to the remaining candidates. If this achieves a majority for a candidate, the election is over. If not, the process repeats for as many rounds as necessary.

The results of spring’s South Carolina primary show one reason this is a smart idea: Statewide, turnout in this year’s primary fell about 60% from the primary, but among voters who cast military and foreign votes , the dropout rate was only low a third. State Election Commission spokesman John David Catalano told me that while military and foreign voters can request a separate runoff, almost all of the runoffs are from instant sampling.


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In addition to increasing runoff turnout and making it much easier for voters, ranked voting also saves money because we don’t have to pay for a second voting day two weeks after the first.

That’s a lot of reasons to make the simple move from traditional runoffs to instant runoffs, but there are also potentially greater benefits: Because people can pick their second choice (and third and up, depending on how many candidates are on the ballot). , ranked by -choice encourages candidates to appeal to a broader segment of the electorate. Another view is that it favors candidates who do appeal to a wider range of voters.


Scoppe: This quirky little voting tweak could change how candidates behave.  And how we behave.

Which brings us to the critics. They still say it’s too complicated and that it takes too long to calculate the winners – which is particularly ironic this year when it’s been more than a week since Election Day and we still don’t have results of the ranked referendum Seattle, conducted under a standard, unranked system.

But now critics of the far right complain that it aims to hurt candidates allied with former President Donald Trump. They point to Alaska as evidence, which combines ranked voting with the system most SC communities use: there are no primaries, but all candidates’ names are on the ballot.


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The top four candidates in the Alaska election advance to the runoff — which the Nov. 8 election actually was — and if no one gets a majority, officials begin tabulating the second-place last-seat decisions. We’re still waiting for the lineup because Alaska law delays the counting of absentee ballots and gives officials three weeks after the election to complete the process. However, Sarah Palin and fellow Trump colleague Kelly Tshibaka are expected to edge their bids for the U.S. House and Senate against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola and mainstream Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski with help from votes in second place Mainstream Republicans and Democrats will lose. Hence the accusations of rigged elections and a system designed to undermine the will of voters, at least as expressed by Trump voters.

The system was clearly not designed to hurt Trump-backed candidates — it’s been around for more than a century — but I have no doubt some people support it for that reason. And if so, so what? I would guess that after the November 8th results, there are many more Republicans who would like to say goodbye to the former president and his mini-mes.

Comment: A good idea worth trying

The main point of the immediate runoff, which precedes and will last long after the former President’s attendance, is to allow us to have a majority without having to hold a second election. And when used for the general election, it ensures that the winner gets a majority — which is now unnecessary in most general elections, including most recently the Charleston County School District, where a third of the vote was sufficient in many cases.

It’s great that military personnel and South Carolina expatriates can use this system in the primary. The rest of us should be able to use it too. It would be even better if we could abolish the primaries as we know them and use them in general elections as well.

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