Ranked-Choice Voting Fares Poorly in Polling

Kevin Dietrich

Three months after ranked-choice voting appeared on the Nevada ballot, support for the concept is low.

Just 33 percent of more than 350 Nevadans polled were familiar with ranked-choice voting, or RCV. Of those polled between Jan. 19-26, just 34 percent supported the concept of ranked-choice voting.

By comparison, the Top Five Ranked Choice Voting Initiative passed with 53 percent approval in the 2022 general election. It will have to be approved again in 2024 to become state law.

RCV would apply in congressional, gubernatorial, statewide executive and state legislative elections. It would require voters to rank the top five candidates in order of preference when casting a ballot, instead of simply choosing the individual they feel is best suited.

When asked for reasons why they didn’t like ranked-choice voting, 56 percent said it requires extensive voter education, 50 percent said it expands the length of time needed to determine election outcomes, 48 percent said it could disenfranchise voters with less information and 45 percent cited the fact that the top vote getter could still come out as a loser.

The latter could occur in races where no candidate captures a majority of votes, The individual with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and voters who backed that candidate would have their votes distributed to their second choice. The process continues until one candidate has a majority. A candidate who finished second or third initially could come out on top after votes are redistributed.

RCV raises a number of issues, including timeliness. It already takes Nevada several days to tally ballots. Adding the intricate math involved with ranked-choice voting would further slow the process.

Alaska, one of two states already employing RCV, didn’t announce results for the state’s U.S. House seat and one of its two U.S. Senate seats until Nov. 23, 2022, – more than two weeks after the election – because candidates in neither race received a majority of votes.

In Nevada’s most recent election, tens of thousands of ballots were counted in the days after the Nov. 8 election. State law allows ballots arriving as many as four days after the election to be counted.

Vote-counting delays cause concern and undermine overall trust in the system.

There are also concerns that RCV would discourage voter turnout by leaving some overwhelmed by the having to research as many as five individuals for each race.

Also, RCV risks decreasing turnout among individuals whose first language is not English, younger voters less familiar with the electoral process or those who simply don’t want to be bothered with a significantly more complicated system.

Kevin Dietrich

Kevin Dietrich

Director of Mainstream Media

Kevin Dietrich joined Nevada Policy in 2022 and currently serves as the Director of Mainstream Media.

He has more than 20 years of experience in communications, including serving as the director of communications and marketing for the South Carolina Bankers Association, working as a speechwriter for South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and assisting with internal communications for CVS Caremark.

Kevin graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in Journalism and a minor in History. A fifth-generation Californian, he spent a decade as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, New York, New Hampshire and South Carolina.