Spoiled recall shows need for Ranked Choice Voting

Tuesday's Fall River mayoral recall election is a prime example of the will of the voters being undermined by our outdated "pick-one" plurality voting system. In an overwhelmingly strong and clear message, a full 61% of Fall River voters chose to recall Mayor Correia, who has been indicted on federal charges of defrauding investors. But on the very same ballot, Correia also won re-election with only 35% of support due to vote-splitting among his four challengers. Ranked Choice Voting would have prevented this perverse outcome.


With Ranked Choice Voting, voters would not have had to guess which challenger could win -- instead, they could rank their favorite candidates in order. If their favorite did not have enough support, their vote would be counted for their next choice. In this manner, the majority who favored "anybody-but-Correia" would have their votes consolidated behind the strongest opponent (who would have most likely been Paul Coogan), instead of being weakened, divided, and defeated.

"Voters recalled Correia, with 7,829 in favor of the recall and 4,911 against, but he will remain in office because he finished first in a five-way race for the city’s top job...Correia garnered 4,808 votes, or about 35 percent of the votes. Coogan received 4,567 votes, or 33 percent." -- from the Boston Globe.

This type of situation is precisely why for normal municipal elections, Massachusetts law requires a runoff election between the two top vote-getters to determine a winner with majority support. Ranked Choice Voting achieves the same results faster, cheaper, and with demonstrably better and more representative turnout because only one election is required (see this link for more details).

RCV does something else better than our current plurality preliminary/delayed-runoff format. There are elections with large fields and many similar candidates can split the votes of their common group of supporters. In the 2013 Boston Mayoral Preliminary, candidates of color may have split the vote, denying any one of them (most likely Charlotte Golar Richie) from proceeding to the runoff.

When this happens, we are not assured that the two candidates that proceed to the runoff election are in fact the two most preferred by all the voters -- meaning the general election could in fact be a contest between the "wrong two" rather than "top two". RCV allows voters to fully express themselves on their ballots through rankings. By evaluating voters' rankings in a thorough instant runoff that eliminates the weakest candidates one-by-one, RCV is able to ensure the winner is the candidate with the strongest and broadest support (see this video for how it works).

Voter Choice Massachusetts has worked hard to ensure that right now in the Massachusetts legislature, there is an effective solution to this problem: Ranked Choice Voting local option bill S.420/H.635 would make it easy for cities and towns to adopt RCV. Lead sponsors are Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Jen Benson. Along with S.414/H.749, a bill to enact RCV for federal and state elections, Ranked Choice Voting legislation has 82 unique co-sponsors in the State House. This is non-partisan, good government reform legislation similar to an RCV local option bill that passed with bi-partisan support in Republican-dominated Utah last year. It puts voters and the integrity of the democratic process ahead of any special interest.

YOU can help make nonsense election results like this Fall River recall a thing of the past. Click here to join Voter Choice Massachusetts as a supporter. Click here to help us pass the RCV bills.


Photo Credit: Fall River Government Center Building, Kenneth C. Zirkel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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