Ranked choice voting has been gaining popularity. Now Tennessee lawmakers want to get rid of it.
In Tennessee, most counties use what’s called the first-past-the-post voting system, where the candidate with the most votes win. But a method called ranked choice voting has been gaining popularity nationwide — and voters in Memphis have approved using it in local elections. Now, some Tennessee lawmakers want to get rid of it.
Ranked choice voting, or instant runoff voting, lets voters choose candidates by order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority, the person with the fewest votes is eliminated. Those who ranked the losing contender first will have their second option counted.
Nashville Councilmember Dave Rosenberg says it allows no vote to be wasted.
“In effect, you’re making sure those voters’ votes still count by seeing who their second choice was, since their first choice was eliminated,” Rosenberg says.
Rosenberg thinks it could change how candidates campaign and how people vote.
“So many times, people don’t vote for who they want because they think it’s a wasted vote. If you’re telling that person, ‘If your candidate gets eliminated, then your vote’s still going to count for whoever your second favorite person is,’ it allows people to vote their conscience.”
But not everyone is a fan of ranked choice voting. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, thinks it makes voting too complicated for Tennesseans. He’s pushing a bill (SB1820) that would bar counties from using it.
“This is a method that is confusing and complex — where if you have multiple candidates, instead of just voting for the name on the ballot, you would instead actually rank those candidates 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 for example,” Kelsey explains.
In cities where ranked choice voting has been used for elections, polls show that the majority of voters understood the process and were satisfied with it.
Correction: This story originally stated ranked choice voting was used in Memphis local elections. The method has been approved for use by Memphis voters but has not been implemented in a local election.