Ranked-Choice Voting: Friend or Foe to Minorities

Proponents of ranked-choice voting (RCV) are engaged in a massive misinformation campaign to gain support for a voting scheme that has sown confusion and chaos everywhere it's been tried. The Soros-backed group FairVote recently produced a study claiming RCV helps minority voters, but nonpartisan fact checkers have exposed the study as fake news.

The Center for Election Confidence (CEC) recently fact checked FairVote's study and found it was based off low-quality research methods that wouldn't pass muster in a high school science fair.

This week Center Square featured a guest column by CEC Executive Director Lisa Dixon which debunks the claims that RVC benefits minority voters. Dixon countered those false claims with a study produced by Princeton University Professor Nolan McCarty which finds RCV actually hurts minority voters.

From Dixon's Center Square guest column:

As far-left progressives seek to fundamentally change America, including how we vote, their controversial and confusing voting scheme known as ranked-choice voting raises concerns about its impact on minority voters. Two recently-released studies trying to answer that question have come to wildly different conclusions. Which one is right?

First, a little background.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. While some voters find the concept appealing, the intricate process of eliminating candidates and reallocating votes can be confusing. This complexity, compounded by the sheer number of candidates in some races, poses a risk to the fundamental principles of fair and transparent elections.

Almost everywhere it's been tried, Black Americans have alleged that their ballots are discarded at a higher rate than those of non-minority voters. After losing his mayoral bid in a ranked-choice voting election in Oakland, Calif., Seneca Scott, a Black candidate, said, "When we're looking at the data, it looked like a lot of people, who clearly intended to vote a certain way, had their ballots tossed for overvotes because they made a mistake. And these mistakes trend in disenfranchised, marginalized communities."

The head of the New York State chapter of the NAACP went so far as to call ranked-choice voting "voter suppression."

While the anecdotal evidence was troubling, it wasn't enough to hold up to legal scrutiny in the courts or make a definitive case in the court of public opinion. Hard evidence came last month when the Center for Election Confidence released a nonpartisan study by Princeton professor Nolan McCarty, "Minority Electorates and Ranked Choice Voting."

Applying rigorous data analysis to recent ranked-choice voting elections, Prof. McCarty shows minority ballots are, in fact, discarded at a higher rate than those of non-minorities under ranked-choice voting.

"Across a variety of electoral contexts in New York City and Alaska, I find consistent correlations between the ethnic and racial composition of a precinct and the share of exhausted ballots," McCarty concluded. "These correlations are especially large when there are large numbers of candidates and when there are not strong co-ethnic candidates in the race."

Dixon goes on to debunk FairVote's claims and sums up her column with:

FairVote's methodology lacks the depth and breadth required for a comprehensive evaluation — it wouldn't stand up to the scientific inquiry standards of a high school science fair project.

The need for scientifically rigorous scholarship, as in Dr. McCarty's report released by CEC, remains crucial for navigating the complexities of ranked-choice voting's effects on minority candidates and voters and understanding how ranked-choice voting weakens minority influence.

No state or local government should adopt ranked-choice voting. It is a flawed voting scheme at best, and a cynical attempt to manipulate outcomes at worst.

Read Dixon's full column here.