Ranked-Choice Voting Doesn’t Live Up to Promises

Bob Zeidman

Question 3 on the 2024 ballot seeks to amend the state constitution by making ranked-choice voting the law in Nevada. Don’t fall victim to this sleight of hand: RCV is exactly what Nevada doesn’t need.

Ranked-choice voting would force voters to order the top five candidates by preference for all statewide and most federal races.

RCV proponents push two frequent arguments: We’re already confronted with making choices from multiple options every day; and giving individuals the opportunity to select a winning candidate, even if it isn’t their first choice, instills them with pride from taking part in the process.

Do these claims hold up? Let’s look at common sense examples.

The first argument is often illustrated by using the experience of shopping or eating out.

You go to the grocery store to buy green beans, but the store is sold out. Your second choice is lima beans, which are in stock, so you grab a can and go home happy. You ranked your options, and you got your second choice.

That said, do people care much about beans? If you were craving a green bean casserole, you’re likely not happy with lima beans. Still, it doesn’t affect your life much. Beans don’t decide health care mandates, border security, the amount of tax dollars funneled to foreign countries or your income tax rate.

Let’s examine some realistic ranked-choice voting situations in everyday life, ones that are moderately important, though not critical, to your life.

You go to a restaurant for your favorite dish. You’ve been looking forward to this all week. Your mouth begins watering on the drive there. It’s expensive but worth it, especially after the hard week you’ve had at work. You and your spouse get dressed up, drop off the kids and arrive at the restaurant, only to find the meal you’ve been anticipating isn’t available.

What’s your second choice? Oh, whatever everyone else is having. What if the restaurant is closed? You can just get fast food next door instead. Afterall, your second choice was fine, right?

Another example: suppose you want to see Taylor Swift in concert, but there aren’t any tickets available. The ticket booth concierge asks you for your second choice. You really wanted to see Swift’s once-in-a-lifetime tour, but you also like Adele. However, you’re told that Adele just ended her tour.

They do have tickets for Spice Wannabe, the tribute to the Spice Girls. The ticket booth concierge tells you she’s heard they’re really good. Hurray! At least you got one of your choices. Is that your reaction?

Finally, let’s say you’re a Golden Knights fan. You go to get tickets, but it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs and there aren’t any left. There’s a second choice, but it’s the Las Vegas Aviators minor league baseball team. So you go with your next option and feel good that at least you got to see a game, even if you love hockey and don’t much care for baseball. Or do you?

Do you actually feel good when you get your second choice? Third choice? Last choice? Selecting beans is pretty unimportant in your life. Going to a nice restaurant can have an impact for a day or a week. Seeing a once-in-a-lifetime concert or going to a playoff game can be a treasured memory for the rest of your life.

Voting for an elected official can affect the entire country for years to come and have a very serious impact on your life. Don’t let RCV proponents convince you that it’s just about choosing beans. It’s not.

Bob Zeidman

Bob Zeidman

Policy Fellow

Bob Zeidman is an inventor, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and high-stakes poker player. He created the field of software forensics and founded Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering Corporation to develop and sell software forensics tools. He is the founder of Zeidman Consulting, an engineering consulting company that has worked on over 250 major litigations involving billions of dollars of disputed intellectual property. His cases have included ConnectU v. Facebook, on which the Oscar-winning movie The Social Network is based, and Oracle v. Google that went up to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the inventor of the famous Silicon Valley Napkin on display at the Computer History Museum. He is also a high-stakes poker player, and his latest tech venture is Good Beat Poker, a new way to play and watch poker online.

Bob writes about politics, society, and business for national magazines. His latest book is Election Hacks, about the true story of how he challenged his own beliefs about voting machine hacking in the 2020 presidential election and made international news and possibly $5 million.