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What is ranked choice voting, which made its debut in New York mayoral polls?

Topics Covered: Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

What is ranked choice voting, which made its debut in New York mayoral polls?


New York city used ranked-choice voting for Mayoral Polls.

What is it?

The method allows voters to rank candidates by preference rather than selecting just their top choice. New York City is having voters rank their top five — though voters are not required to choose five.

Benefits/rationale behind this process:

Ranking candidates is far more complicated, but advocates believe it is fairer and more accurately reflects the collective will of the majority.

How does it work?

  1. If someone gets 50% plus one after all the first-choice votes are counted, then the election is over and that candidate wins.
  2. But if no one gets 50% plus one, it’s on to Round 2.
  3. The person with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters’ second choices get redistributed as votes for other candidates.
  4. This reallocation of votes goes on until someone reaches 50% plus one.

Where else has this been used?

There are some 20 jurisdictions across the country that use ranked-choice voting.

  • It has also been used by Australia, Ireland and Malta since the early 20th century. Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland have all adopted it as well.

What are the arguments in favor of it?

  1. It means the winner gets a majority of the vote. The usual system of “most votes wins” can mean someone with only a plurality of the overall vote can be elected, not necessarily the person with majority support.
  2. More moderate candidates. It’s less likely that extreme candidates who have a strong base of support but aren’t liked more broadly could get through in a crowded primary.
  3. Less negative campaigning. The argument goes that candidates need a majority of voters to like them.
  4. People can feel good about casting their vote. Instead of holding their nose for that one choice they get, voters can express at least a first choice for the person they really like.

What are the arguments against it?

  1. It’s complicated. And complications can lead to errors.
  2. Some argue it’s less democratic because it eschews the idea of one person, one vote.
  3. It could encourage horse-trading. Ranked-choice voting might make for less strategic voting, but it could open the door for candidates to make deals with one another about who their voters should go for as a second choice.


Insta Curious: 

Do you know What Approval Voting is? Read Here



Prelims Link:

  1. About the method.
  2. Benefits.
  3. What is First Past the Post system.
  4. What is proportional representation system.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of ranked choice voting system.

Sources: Indian Express.