News Release

How Rank Voting Would Flip Trump’s Victories

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.32.54 AMROB RICHIE, rr at fairvote.org, @fairvote
CYNTHIA TERRELL, ct at fairvote.org
Richie is executive director of FairVote and a leading advocate of electoral reform, including the adoption of ranked choice voting, the instant runoff system that allows voters to rank candidates 1-2-3 and will be on the November ballot in Maine. The group recently partnered with the College of William and Mary and YouGov, producing the report “What Republican Voters Really Think.”

He said today: “The Republican nomination process is dramatic evidence of the failure of its voting rules. Media fixation on who is winning states misses two key flaws. Unlike Democratic contests, delegates often don’t accurately reflect the popular vote, which is getting worse with the shift to winner-take-all primaries. And absent instant runoff voting, the divided field has allowed Donald Trump to sweep a series of states without ever securing a majority of the vote.”

Richie co-wrote the piece “Simulating Instant Runoff Flips Most Donald Trump Primary Victories,” which states: “By only allowing voters to select their first choice candidate, typical American elections do not accurately capture the complexity of voter opinion in a multi-candidate race. This shortcoming is particularly salient in this year’s Republican presidential contest, as support from the majority of GOP voters that oppose Trump is divided among several challengers led by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich.

“If Super Tuesday contests had been conducted with ranked choice voting — a proven system that empowers voters to rank candidates by preference in order to elect the candidate with the strongest support and the one most likely to garner the support of a majority — the results would look very different. Our models suggest that Trump would have won Alabama and Massachusetts, competed in toss-up races in Tennessee and Vermont, and lost the remaining seven states.”

Richie added today, “Our survey of 1,000 Republicans and independents shows clear support for both ranked choice voting and more proportionality in primaries. Our ranked choice voting tally also showed Trump losing despite a big plurality vote lead. It’s clear that Trump’s tactics would not have worked with fairer rules to pick state winners. Even yesterday, he likely would have only won Florida with instant runoff voting.”

Cynthia Terrell, director of FairVote’s Representation2020 project, added: “We’re also getting a great lesson in how moribund our congressional elections are: We see such clear hunger for change in both major party presidential contests, and yet such little sign of that hunger in congressional primaries, where incumbents again are dominant. We must address the disconnect between voters and representatives in the ‘People’s House.'” The new faces we deserve should include far more women — the United States had fallen to 95th in the world in women’s representation. It’s time to review and reform the core rules and structures that limit our democracy.”

You can work with FairVote’s YouGov survey data to see the ranked choice voting outcome and see the impact of removing candidates. RCVApp.com features a tool for creating and running ranked choice voting polls.

See more analysis at fairvote.org/blog — including the pieces, “New Polls Show that GOP Split Vote Problem Continues,” “Electoral Systems in the World’s Most Robust Democracies: Only Six of 33 Use U.S.-Style Winner-Take-All Elections,” and “Dr. Jill Stein [presumptive Green Party candidate] Supports Ranked Choice Voting.”

[Editors note: Also see rangevoting.org — run by another group of reformers which advocates a different voting system: one that allows voters to score candidates, like judges in the Olympics.]