North Dakota Republicans Move To Ban Ranked-Choice Voting

North Dakota’s Republican-controlled state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban ranked-choice voting (RCV) for any local, state, or federal elective office. The move aligns with the Republican National Committee’s disavowal of RCV in its January meeting.

In a 74-19 vote, the North Dakota lower chamber approved HB 1273, which prohibits the use of RCV and also bans approval voting, which is currently only used in the city of Fargo.

Under RCV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the last-place finisher is eliminated. Then, their votes are reallocated to the voter’s second-choice candidate. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.

The bill’s sponsor, state GOP Rep. Ben Koppelman (R), explained that “This bill was brought before the House to ensure that all citizens of North Dakota have their constitutional and civic rights protected by the state and not be diluted by the city or by the local ballot.”

The bill will now go to the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 43-4 majority.

RCV supporters argue it ensures the winning candidate has broad support. In contrast, opponents claim that it can confuse voters and disenfranchise certain groups of people.

RCV has also been associated with controversial election results, as seen in Alaska’s 2020 congressional election when a Democrat won the seat despite nearly 60% of voters casting their ballots for a Republican. The outcome was directly attributable to the state’s new RCV system.

RCV also played a significant role in helping Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) fend off a challenge from President Donald Trump-backed GOP candidate Kelly Tshibaka during the 2022 midterms. Murkowski’s allies were heavily involved in pushing Alaska to adopt RCV to improve her chance of being reelected.

Maine is the only other U.S. state to use RCV for its elections currently. Following a referendum in 2016, the state used RCV in the 2018 and 2020 elections for federal offices and for its state and primary elections. New York City also recently implemented RCV in its local elections.

The debate over the use of RCV will continue in the coming years as advocates and opponents clash over its effectiveness and potential impact on election outcomes. However, for now, North Dakota is one of the latest states to prohibit this voting method, signaling a pushback against the procedure that has appeared to protect incumbents even more than is usually the case.