Ranked Choice Voting in the U.S.A.: Developments and Debates
Wednesday, September 2, 9:00 a.m.-1:00p.m.
Hilton Union Square 3 &4
Growing numbers of American cities use ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as the Alternative Vote, Preferential Voting and Instant Runoff Voting), including San Francisco and three other cities in the Bay Area. Drawing on international experience, this short course will first explore the theory behind the use of RCV in American elections. Discussants include Arend Lijphart (confirmed), Larry Diamond, Australia’s Ben Reilly, and Ireland’s David Farrell. As part of this discussion, the course will consider the likely future of RCV, structured around the statewide ballot measure that will be presented to voters in Maine in 2016. The course then will turn to emergent American experience with the system. The course will explore how scholars have made use of the increasing amount of data available on voter turnout and cognition, residual votes, candidate strategy and campaign tone under RCV. Scholars will report on novel approaches that were adopted to study RCV elections in 2013 and 2014 involving public opinion polling, content analysis and analysis of “ballot image” data from seven cities using RCV and 14 control cities. The results of the comprehensive public opinion survey of voters in RCV and control jurisdictions, which explore voters’ experiences and attitudes toward RCV and alternative systems, will be presented.
The course will close by addressing key areas of controversy over RCV. We will hear from scholars who have published on both sides of the debates over whether RCV: affects turnout positively, negatively or not at all; is cognitively laborious and so disadvantages minorities and lower-SES voters; incentivizes civil discourse and alters candidate strategy; and is administratively practical to implement transparently.