Last November, the state of Maine instituted Ranked Choice Voting statewide by popular referendum. Despite a recent court decision, wherein the court held that the method conflicted with the state's constitution, Ranked Choice Voting is still in effect in Maine. Huzzah!
My joy in reading the Salon article linked above is matched only by my joy that Salon published such an article. The stub on WABI's website made it look as though this were a binding decision that canceled the expressed will of the people. But Paul Rosenberg informs us on Salon that there was no court case, so there was no official judicial review. How could there actually be a case anyway? RCV hasn't been used yet, so it can't have harmed anyone yet, and there can be no plaintiff. Even if you believe that RCV brazenly violates the constitution, you can't really take it to court unless you can show where on the political doll RCV hurt you.
Nevertheless, the Maine legislature is already at work on efforts to codify RCV—or to overturn it—up to and including amending the state's constitution. These efforts may produce some odd coalitions within both houses, since electoral reform is (oddly enough) not a strictly partisan issue. Even Republicans there don't want another Paul LePage elected governor, or anyone taking office with less than 40% of the vote.
Hey, fellow Texas residents: Did you know that Ranked Choice Voting is used in Texas?
If your mind's first reaction to the question was "No way!" that's probably due to your interpretation of the question: assuming that it meant "used in all of Texas." The word "Texas" exerts a powerful influence on those of us who grew up here. As advertisers in this state know, there is no greater way to build credibility for your product or service than having someone say "Texas"--preferably two or three times per 30-second spot, and with a regional accent.
According to the map on this page, however, some public elections in the Lone Star State make use of Instant Runoff Voting, generally the Ranked-Choice variety, for races with three or more candidates. The state itself neither uses nor allows such a system, nor do any Texas counties or municipalities of which I am aware. So even the use of the word "public" in this paragraph is suspect: You can vote in these elections, but only if you earn the right.
The Rules of the Texas Democratic Party explicitly permit Instant Runoff Voting for various party offices at Senate District conventions, the level just below the state convention. Being an SD delegate usually requires being elected a county delegate first at a precinct convention following a primary election. But the Rules do not explicitly require use of that method. (My bolds below.)
Article IV Party Conventions, C.5.g.(8) Those senate districts which will use a written signed ballot shall notify the State Chair. The state party will provide ballots that are uniformly designed for these districts which state the process for voting and instructions for instant runoff balloting, if used.
(9) Written ballots may provide for a instant runoff ballot ranking of the first three candidates. If no candidate wins a majority, the person with the lowest vote total shall be removed from the count and their ballot awarded to the candidate who is the next
highest ranked person. This process shall continue until a candidate obtains a majority of the votes.
The Green Parties of the various states, including Texas, have used RCV and other IRV methods internally since at least 2000. More recently, Texas Greens have switched to Approval Voting. One of my favorite election-reform wonks in this state, katija gruene, is a fan: She seldom if ever misses an opportunity to point out the flaws of RCV (coincidentally, the subject of yesterday's Engines of Our Ingenuity podcast) and the inherent advantages of AV. But kat has allowed that RCV still represents an improvement over one-and-only-one-vote-in-each-race. As Dr. Boyd points out in the podcast, no system is perfect.
As a citizen, I would like to believe that what is good enough for the state Democratic Party is good enough (even if not perfect) for the state as a whole. As a blogger, right now I don't want to get bogged down in researching whether any SD conventions actually use it. I also don't want to get soap-boxy about how utterly fantastic some form of IRV could be for non-partisan municipal races here, where runoff elections typically draw turnouts of less than 10%.
When Is a Majority Not a Majority? or Even a Plurality?
The People's Republic of Austin tried implementing IRV in the 1990s, but the effort met with constitutional snags:
Efforts to implement instant runoff voting in Texas have also been stymied by legal concerns. The Texas Secretary of State determined that the city of Austin may not implement instant runoff voting because it does not provide for majority winners as required by section 275.002 of the Texas Election Code. This statute states that "[t]o be elected to a city office, a candidate must receive a majority of the total number of votes received by all candidates for the office." Although the Texas Secretary of State's Office conceded that the term "majority" could theoretically include a preferential majority, it determined that the Texas Election Code requires "traditional" majorities.
Up in Augusta, the Maine Supreme Court's majority pulled from its collective ass something about how the constitution requires only a plurality, not a majority—as if a majority isn't by definition a plurality. Such linguistic torment is one of the reasons I decided against a legal career.