Authored on February 11, 2019
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Minnesota is abuzz with the expectation that Senator Amy Klobuchar, who easily won her re-election last year, will announce her Presidential campaign this Sunday. Today, Senator Warren made her announcement in her home state. They are is entering a field that already has eight declared candidates, including five women, and that is expected to grow to 20 or more.

Any crowded field is destined to split support among primary voters and yield winners with just a small plurality of votes.

Votes will split among women, progressives, centrists, people of color—any which way you look at it, there is no way in a field this large to know who is the strongest and most popular candidate. The path to victory for Sen. Klobuchar and other hopefuls can only be a horse race. The first to make it to the finish line, no matter how small the vote share, will prevail and be the party nominee in 2020. In 2016, the widely split field of Republican hopefuls resulted in a nominee that didn’t have majority support in most of the primaries and caucuses.

 

How Delegates are Won

Presidential Democratic primary rules allow candidates to receive delegates in proportion to the share of votes they receive as they move through the states, some of which hold caucuses and some of which hold primaries, like Minnesota, will do for the first time in 2020. But only candidates with 15 percent or more of votes at each stage will be viable to receive delegates.

In some caucus states, like Iowa, voters who vote for a candidate under the threshold, can “walk” to their next preference candidate and have their vote continue to count. But most states, including Minnesota, don’t allow voters’ second preferences to count.

They could, however, by adopting Ranked Choice Voting.

 

What if we Used Ranked Choice Voting?

If Ranked Choice Voting were used to select the party nominee, Sen. Klobuchar and the rest of the presidential field would be able to build a coalition of support among their base and those who would prefer them as a second or third choice. Voters would be allowed to vote their hearts, knowing their second choice would count if their first choice didn’t prevail through the initial round.

By allowing votes cast for candidates with less than 15 percent in each of the state’s primaries or caucuses to transfer to their second or possibly third choice, then the eventual field of nominees heading into the national convention in the summer of 2020 would be the strongest and most popular among them. If women wanted to elect a woman, their votes could pool, rather than split, to help achieve that outcome. The same is true for those who want to elect someone of a certain political ideology, or race, or set of issues.

Moreover, a process that required candidates to reach out for second choices would incentivize a more respectful and civil campaign. Traditional attack campaigns don’t work under RCV. We’ve seen how RCV changes the tone of the campaigns for the better. And we’ve seen how it elects candidates with broad popular support. In a time of growing divisiveness and polarization, RCV is a way to ensure winning candidates appeal to a broad cross-section of voters, not just their base.

 

Finding the Strongest Candidate

RCV would incentivize a whole different kind of race, and strengthen—rather than weaken through a season of mudslinging campaigns—the top candidates competing in the summer convention. In turn, the prevailing candidate will enter the General Election with a stronger and more united coalition.

If the Democratic party adopted RCV as its method to select the nominee for President in 2020, the results would represent the will of the majority of its voters and thus make for a stronger candidate. For those who believe Sen. Klobuchar — or any other candidate — is that candidate, RCV is the best way to demonstrate that strength. 

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