Tired of Poisonous Politics? Ranked Choice Voting Could Change the Tone of NH Elections

Everyone complains about negative campaigning. This year, the NH Legislature has a chance to do something about it: adopt “Ranked Choice Voting” for our elections. The House hearing on the bill will be tomorrow, Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 amplease come to the hearing if you can!

Studies show Ranked Choice Voting reduces negative campaigning, increases voter turnout and leads to greater voter satisfaction with election outcomes. We need this!

The system can sound more complicated than it really is. With RCV, you don’t just vote for one candidate – you get to rank candidates according to your preference. If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, then second- and third- place votes come into play. The candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and those ballots are redistributed according to second-place preferences. And so on. Here’s a one-minute video showing how it works:


Here’s how it works in multi-member districts (like many of our legislative districts):


It reduces negative campaigning. Candidates avoid throwing mud at each other, because they may need another candidate’s voters to get themselves elected.

RCV incentivizes campaign civility because, in order to win second and third choice rankings, a candidate needs to appeal to other candidates’ supporters. (In a 2015 study) …respondents in cities using RCV reported candidates spent little time criticizing opponents… respondents in cities using RCV reported less negative campaigns.

Under the ranked-choice system, [2011] candidates were forced to engage with each other and talk to each others’ voters. The result was an interesting conversation about Portland and its future that would not have happened in a “turn-out-your-base” election.

As Portland Mayor Mike Brennan put it, “In other campaigns, if somebody had a lawn sign of your opponent on the lawn, you walked by. In this case, you stopped and still talked to them.”

It can increase voter turnout. The first time Ranked Choice Voting was used in Portland, Maine, turnout was 60% higher than expected. The first time it was used in Santa Fe, New Mexico, turnout was 20% higher.

Voters like Ranked Choice Voting. Seven out of ten St. Paul voters like the system and want to keep using it. Almost seven in ten Minneapolis voters want to keep using RCV. More than seven in ten voters in Cary, NC and Hendersonville, NC preferred RCV to traditional elections. In Maine, six in ten voters want to keep using the system – and more than half want to expand it to new elections.

The 2020 presidential primary is a perfect place to start.  With dozens of candidates lining up to run for President, now is the perfect time to adopt ranked choice voting. Greater choices for voters is welcome; but under the current system, crowded primaries can produce “winners” with less than 25 percent of the vote — and voters whose [first-choice] candidate gets less than the qualifying threshold do not get delegates at the nominating convention. Under the current system, someone could easily win the nomination over the expressed opposition of most primary voters. Read more about how RCV would improve presidential primaries here.

We have the chance to try ranked-choice voting here in New Hampshire. The House Election Law Committee will hear HB 728 tomorrow, Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 am in Room 308 of the Legislative Office Building (33 N. State Street, Concord). If you can attend the hearing – please do! If you use Facebook, can you help share the event notice?  https://www.facebook.com/events/360744588039208/  If you have time to call or email Committee members, and ask them to support the bill – would you? Contact information is available through the links on the Committee Web Page http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?id=23  — just click on each Committee member’s name (and don’t forget the three Committee officers, at the top of the page).

This could be our best chance to end poisonous politics and increase voter engagement.

And you can make a difference in how this comes out.


(YouTube graphic & link to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges explaining RCV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSGEcCqoR70)

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