Do voters from diverse backgrounds find Ranked Choice Voting easy to use?
Yes. Voters of all backgrounds have consistently proven that ranked ballots are simple and easy to use. Recently in the US, valid ballots cast represented 99.9% (in Minneapolis 2013), 99.6% (in San Francisco 2011) and 99.7% (in Oakland 2010) with more than 4/5 of American voters choosing to rank multiple candidates (rather than exercising their right to select only one candidate).
Visible minorities, immigrants, seniors and the less-educated do not find ranked ballots any more difficult to understand than other voters. In an independent study of the 2009 election in Minneapolis performed by St. Cloud University, 97% of minority voters found the ranked ballot easy to understand, compared to 95% of the general public. In Minneapolis in 2013, an exit poll conducted by Edison Research showed 85% of all voters found ranked choice voting simple to use, including 82% of voters of color, 81% of voters without a college education, and 81% of voters aged 65 and up. Additionally, 88% of voters ranked their ballots and more than two-thirds were familiar with RCV before going to the polls. The effective ballot rate was 99.95%, meaning that virtually every voter filled out his or her ballot correctly and had their vote counted.
For Burlington VT’s first election with ranked ballots: “The city spent just three cents per registered voter on voter education, but voters in the lowest-income areas were just as likely to rank additional candidates as voters in high-income areas. The full instant runoff tally was completed less than two hours after the polls closed.”
There is no evidence to support the claim that minority voters or low-income voters feel disenfranchised after using Ranked Choice Voting.
In fact, RCV has been shown to enfranchise communities of color by eliminating low-turnout primary elections – which are attended by disproportionately older, whiter, and more affluent voters than the general election. For example, in Minneapolis in 2005 (before RCV was enacted), general election turnout was nearly three times greater than primary turnout (8 percent compared to 21 percent) in Ward 5 – which is predominantly people of color – compared to two times greater for the city overall (15 percent to 30 percent). RCV mitigates this inequity by holding one election in November, when turnout is higher and more diverse. And in San Francisco, where RCV has been in use for several years, effective voter participation has increased as high as 300 percent in traditionally low-turnout precincts.