News Release

Oscars Use Ranked Voting — Why Can’t We?


ROB RICHIE, [email]
Richie is the executive director of FairVote. He said today: “Academy members get to express their true preference in a way that allows them to vote their heart and their head — allowing a degree of nuance we all should have.

“Whenever an election for a single seat has more than two candidates, a majority of voters can strongly oppose the ‘winner’ in the plurality system Americans often use. To embrace voter choice without fear of ‘spoilers,’ a growing number of cities and colleges are moving to instant runoff voting, also called ranked choice voting or RCV. Minneapolis and St. Paul will elect their mayors with RCV this November, as have cities like San Francsco, Oakland and Portland, Maine. RCV is also used to pick the Best Picture Oscar and is now under serious consideration for statewide elections, with new legislation in Maine to use RCV for the governor’s race garnering widespread support. RCV is simple. All you need to do is ask voters to indicate their backup choices. With those rankings we can simulate a runoff between the top candidates if no candidate wins a majority of first choices. There’s no need to ask people to return to the polls — ranking candidates allows us to know how people would vote in a race between the top two.”

A representative in the Maine legislature who is sponsoring a bill for ranked choice voting with over 40 co-sponsors, Russell said today: “Ranked choice voting allows for a diverse set of candidates with a diverse set of ideas without the threat of a ‘spoiler’. The last several years have been difficult in Maine because the independent Eliot Cutler and the Democrat Libby Mitchell split the vote, electing instead Republican Paul LePage with 38 percent of the vote. He has governed as though he has a mandate, despite more than 60 percent of the public actively voting against him.

“Now, people are openly discussing who should and should not run to avoid the same scenario. In any other area of life, it would be absurd (and rude!) to suggest someone not go after a goal. We don’t tell movie directors not to make a movie because another director might lose their Oscar, do we? Ranked choice voting basically fixes this problem, allowing voters to list second and third choices and better ensuring the views of the public are reflected at the ballot box.”