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Op-Ed: Georgia joins other states in shooting down ranked-choice voting

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Americans and Georgians have a fundamental right to a fair, open, transparent, and honest election. The Democrats’ latest election manipulation scheme, ranked-choice Voting threatens that fundamental right. But as Americans learn about a system described as “designed to cause confusion and fatigue among voters,” they are rejecting ranked-choice voting in a rare showing of bipartisan agreement.

As of the 2022 elections, 62 jurisdictions across the country use ranked-choice voting, which is an election nightmare requiring voters to rank candidates in order of preference and then have their ballots counted multiple times until one candidate emerges with a plurality. Predictably, ranked-choice voting has led to incorrect tabulations and confusing results.

Five states have passed laws banning ranked-choice voting and Georgia could soon be the sixth state to safeguard the integrity of elections. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and Senate Republicans have introduced Senate Bill 355, which would prohibit the use of ranked-choice voting in state and local elections. As the nation grapples with confidence in elections, this bill stands as a commendable step towards ensuring the transparency and fairness of the electoral system.

“This type of voting system, pushed by dark money groups, could cause a drastic increase in the number of ballots being thrown out, disenfranchising Georgia voters,” Jones said in a statement. “Georgians deserve to have the utmost faith in their elections, and those pushing ranked-choice voting are only hindering that faith.”

The Senate bill comes on the heels of Connecticut Democratic Attorney General William Tong’s formal opinion on ranked-choice voting, noting it likely violates his state’s constitution. Tong issued the opinion in response to an inquiry from the Connecticut Speaker of the House, who in turn presumably sought guidance on ranked-choice voting proposals. General Tong’s observations are applicable to all states considering ranked-choice voting.

“The framers and amenders of our Constitution wrote with a specific type of election infrastructure in mind. It seems unlikely that they left the door open for a kind of election that would be at the very least impracticable given the localized election system they knew was in place across the state,” concluded Tong.

Tong’s concerns are not theoretical or limited to Connecticut. Examples from across the country, including an Oakland, California school board race (where the wrong winner was initially declared) and a Democratic primary in Arlington County, Virginia, demonstrate ranked-choice voting leads to complications, delays, and confusion among voters.

Alaska and Maine, both of which have implemented ranked-choice voting statewide, faced issues where election results contradicted the will of voters. For instance, in Alaska’s 2022 midterms, Democrat Mary Peltola won despite nearly 60% of voters supporting a Republican candidate.

The potential suppression of minority votes observed in the smaller-than-expected turnout during the Arlington County primary underscores the need for careful reevaluation of ranked-choice voting.

A new study by Princeton Professor Nolan McCarty and the Center for Election Confidence raises concerns about ranked-choice voting negatively impacting minority voters. Dr. McCarty’s study, “Minority Electorates and ranked-choice Voting,” presents the first statistical analysis of the impact of ranked-choice voting on minority participation.

The findings highlight a troubling trend: Districts with significant minority populations experience a higher rate of “exhausted” ballots, leading to their elimination, compared to other districts. This raises serious, legitimate concerns about the fairness, equity, and transparency of ranked-choice voting elections.

McCarty’s study focused on ranked-choice voting elections in New York City’s Democratic Primary in 2021 and the 2022 elections in Alaska. It provides concrete evidence that ranked-choice voting harms minority voters with a correlation between a precinct’s racial composition and the proportion of exhausted ballots. The rate of exhausted ballots in minority communities only increases when races have numerous candidates.

Democrats have made ranked-choice voting a partisan issue. A paper published in October by the Foundation for Government Accountability highlights that ranked-choice voting is predominantly championed by Democrats, with 57 of the 74 pro-ranked-choice voting bills in 2023 having only Democratic sponsors.

The partisan push may likely be attributed to the system allowing less popular Democrats to defeat more popular Republicans, as seen in both Maine and Alaska. It also helps establishment Democratic leaders select nominees while making it more difficult for other traditional, rank-and-file Democratic voting blocs, such as the minorities in Professor McCarty’s study, to have their votes fully counted.

Ranked-choice voting proponents have employed deceptive messaging, framing it as based on “the idea of fairness,” to sway public opinion. A polling memo revealed that such misleading arguments resonate with the electorate. This deceptive approach was evident ahead of a Wisconsin Senate hearing on a bill seeking to force the state to adopt ranked-choice voting.

Considering the threats to election integrity and the disproportionate impact on minority voters ranked-choice voting represents, Georgia’s Senate Bill 355 represents a crucial step toward protecting our democracy. As the nation grapples with the integrity of our electoral system, we must prioritize the inclusivity and fairness necessary to uphold the democratic values that define our nation.

Attorney Jason Thompson Chairs the Georgia chapter of the Republican National Lawyers Association.

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