One person, one vote has been the cornerstone of the U.S. electoral process for more than half a century. But there’s an effort afoot that would effectively allow some Nevadans as many as four votes in different races while others could end up being disenfranchised.
Ranked-choice voting, or RCV, will be on the 2024 ballot in Nevada. It seeks to dramatically alter how Nevadans vote for state and most federal offices, from the state legislature and governor to the U.S. Senate and House.
Top five ranked-choice voting would result in up to five candidates running for each open position. RCV would require voters to rank candidates for each race, from first to last. Votes would be tabulated in rounds until one candidate has a majority.
If no candidate has a majority in the first round, the candidate who came in last is dropped. Those who supported that candidate would see their votes go to their second-ranked candidate. The process continues until someone receives a majority.
In effect, this means is that some individuals would get to vote more than once. Take the governor’s race: A Nevada voter ranks the five candidates. If there’s no majority and the voter’s top choice finishes last, their vote goes to their second choice. If a majority isn’t realized, the process continues.
It could take as many as four tabulations to determine a winner. That means a person who consistently selected the lowest-scoring candidate would see their vote awarded to a new candidate during each subsequent recount. Their vote could count four separate times in the same race.
If that’s not bad enough, there are those who could see their votes disappear entirely.
Some voters would inevitably fail to rank one or more of the five candidates on their ballots. It could be because they don’t understand the process, dislike one or more candidates so much that they refuse to support them at all or opt to list their preferred candidate more than once. These voters could end up with an exhausted ballot, meaning their vote would be thrown out.
Nevada Policy President John Tsarpalas explains what happens when a voter chooses to rank just two candidates.
“Let’s say the voter’s top choice finishes last in the first round. That candidate is eliminated, and the voter’s second choice becomes his first for the next round,” Tsarpalas said. “But if that candidate also finishes last, the voter has an exhausted ballot. Because he has no third candidate, his ballot is put aside.
“That voter now has no say in who wins,” he added. “His exhausted ballot means his vote stopped counting after the second round.”
In Alaska’s 2022 congressional special election, which employed RCV, nearly 15,000 ballots were exhausted, meaning those voters’ voices weren’t heard. Consider also that the difference between the winner and second place in that election was just 5,240 votes.
Ranked-choice voting is a bad idea for many reasons, including that it is a confusing and complex system that decreases confidence in the election process.
Factor in that some individuals could end up with more than one vote while others could have no vote at all and it’s easy to understand how RCV goes against the long-standing Nevada tradition of simply selecting that candidate the voter believes will do the best job.