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National advocate weighs in on ranked choice voting for CT

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, a summary of Ballot Question 2 on the Nov. 3 Massachusetts election ballot known as a "Ranked Choice Voting" law is displayed in Marlborough, Mass., in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Bill Sikes
/
AP
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, a summary of Ballot Question 2 on the Nov. 3 Massachusetts election ballot known as a "Ranked Choice Voting" law is displayed in Marlborough, Mass., in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

State lawmakers have convened a working group to explore allowing municipalities and political parties to use a ranked-choice voting system for certain elections.

Gov. Ned Lamont ordered the working group earlier this month.

In a ranked-choice system, voters rate their candidates in order of preference. If none of the candidates wins a majority, the last-place candidate is eliminated. Votes for that candidate are redistributed based on the voters’ next choices, and so on, until a candidate has earned over 50% of the vote.

Deb Otis, Director of Research at FairVote, advocated for ranked-choice voting at the first working group meeting on June 14. FairVote’s research has indicated that ranked-choice voting increases voter satisfaction.

“[In] a recent exit poll in Utah, voters said they were more likely to vote honestly by a 30 to one margin,” Otis said.

Ranked-choice voting has also been shown to decrease what Otis termed “strategic” voting.

“In our current elections, if you've got two candidates already in the race, [if] a third candidate thinks about running, that third candidate might be demonized as a vote splitter,” Otis said. “They might be told, ‘If you run, you'll just take votes away from another similar candidate, and maybe help elect a candidate that does not agree with your platform at all.’”

Otis said that winners of ranked-choice elections tend to be those with the broadest base of support, sometimes making the “Top 3” ranking of as many as 70% or more of voters.

“If more than half of the voters want you in office, that should be the lowest bar,” Otis said. “That should be absolutely mandatory in order to win elected office in a representative democracy like ours. And ranked choice voting gets us there, but our current elections do not.”

Otis said FairVote’s research has demonstrated that ranked-choice systems are tied to better representation for women and people of color, and that candidates in ranked-choice elections are less likely to resort to personal attacks while campaigning, for fear of losing their chance at a second- or third-place ranking.

Connecticut would join other New England states, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont, in allowing this kind of voting in certain elections.

The intention of the first meeting was to provide working group members with a basic understanding of ranked-choice voting; subsequent meetings over the next few months will allow lawmakers to delve further into the details.

The working group plans to provide a recommendation to the state General Assembly in November, and a final vote is planned for the 2025 legislative session.

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