Why the push for Ranked Choice Voting (to fix a problem created by the last big election law they passed)?
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is being pushed by a number of organizations across the country, and used in some elections in the state of Utah. Despite the fact that its potential anomalies are legendary, it purports to fix the problem of plurality that was created with SB 54 which instituted a signature path to the primary.
The Republican Party uses RCV at some county and state conventions, and the Legislature passed a pilot program that municipalities can opt into for their own elections. In 2021, the first year of the pilot, 23 communities chose to use the method, while in upcoming elections it appears only 12 are still interested.
According to a recently passed Utah law, SB 219, only government funds can be used to pay for elections. Apparently, there has been at least one offer made by a private entity to help pay for elections in cities that use RCV. Not only is this highly unethical, it is now illegal.
Two issues come to mind: 1. It appears now that there is an additional cost to running RCV elections over non-RCV. I don’t know a soul who was aware of this (and admitted it), and RCV is often sold as a cost-saving alternative to other ways of dealing with plurality. Maybe, maybe not. 2. WTH? Why would a private entity be so invested in changing our election system that they’re willing to pay money to see it happen? What else is going on here? Maybe it’s just about the money, after all; maybe more. We ought to find out.
How has RCV worked out in Utah so far?
RCV has been a disaster everywhere it’s been tried and a recent analysis of the data here in Utah showed how bad the process is at actually choosing the person most supported by voters.
Dr. Jiri Navratil and Dr. Warren D. Smith released a report and summary last year on their findings from Utah County and Moab’s RCV races in 2021. Dr. Navratil followed up with another analysis of the Utah County GOP convention RCV races that just occurred in 2023.
There are three deeply disturbing anomalies that voters need to understand, that seem to often occur in RCV races. I’ve briefly explained them below. When you read them, you won’t believe they could actually take place because they make no sense. But they do and they have. Here in our state. See the slide show on the report link for a brief illustration, using actual data from Utah races.
Non-monotonicity paradox - if the winner were to have received a certain number more votes than they did, they would have lost.
Participation failure paradox - if a certain number of additional voters had shown up to vote against a loser, the loser would have won.
Condorcet failure paradox - the candidate most preferred in every head to head race against the other candidates, loses. In other words, the favorite candidate loses.