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In-Depth Interview: Adam Eichen Details Proposals to Use Ranked Choice Voting in Presidential Primaries

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Adam Eichen presents a fascinating idea: use ranked choice voting (RCV), also known as instant runoff voting, in the crowded Democratic presidential priamaries in 2020.The number of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination next year could smash all records. But such a large field also means that most voters will likely end up disappointed because their preferred candidate is eliminated. Is an election where most people’s preferred candidate loses a good thing?

Ranked choice voting (RCV) could help fix that problem.

San Francisco has used RCV — also known as instant runoff voting — in local elections since 2006, and the system decided a 2018 congressional election in Maine. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig’s group, Equal Citizens, is proposing the use of RCV in presidential primaries in 2020.

This podcast was originally posted at WhoWhatWhy. Adam Eichen, a self-described democracy wonk, is a communications strategist for Equal Citizens. In this podcast, Eichen discusses the strengths and weaknesses of RCV, and the steps required to implement it — starting in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary state.

With a roster featuring as many as 20 candidates, voters whose first-choice candidate is eliminated would still influence the outcome with their second and third selections.

One benefit of RCV is that it encourages candidates — aware that they might need second- and third-choice votes — to refrain from using negative ads or personal attacks against their opponents.

Deciding the winner of an RCV election can take weeks, a reality that might frustrate TV watchers, online influencers, and media executives eager for conclusive results on election night. We also discuss the pros and cons of eliminating one-on-one runoffs, which usually attract lower voter turnout.

Adam Eichen is co-author, with Frances Moore Lappé, of Daring Democracy. You can read the opinion piece about RCV that he co-wrote here.