It’s time to reconsider how Texas votes
The Texas primary election season is exhausting. After a contentious first primary election in March, Texans will once again head to the polls on May 24 to vote in the primary runoffs to finalize the slate of candidates on the November ballot.
The reason for this additional round of voting comes from a healthy place—candidates who win elections should have wide popular support—but it is tedious and inefficient. Under Texas law, “[i]f a candidate fails to earn a majority of the total vote, they will head to a runoff with the second-highest vote getter,” writes The Texas Newsroom.
Unfortunately for voters who are already weary of election season, there are some 50 primaries that are unsettled because of this majority requirement. With unrelenting political advertisements and the need to once again make time to head to the polls, it’s fair to ask if there is a better way. There is. Texas should adopt ranked-choice voting (RCV).
RCV is an alternative voting method to the primary runoff system Texas uses now. In RCV jurisdictions, voters rank candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. Assuming no candidate receives a majority of first preference votes, the candidate in last is eliminated, and the voters who ranked them first then have their votes transferred to their second choices. The process continues until a single candidate reaches a majority.
In practice, RCV creates an instant runoff. For Texas, this is where RCV shines. By combining two elections, voters avoid hassle, taxpayers save money and candidates can stop their intra-party bickering and turn their attention to the general election.
RCV also offers a number of improvements to our political culture as well by granting voters more freedom and encouraging a higher degree of consensus and coalition building.
Currently, a Texas voter can only choose one candidate per race to vote for on their ballot and may feel obligated to vote strategically for one of the frontrunners, but RCV gives voters the freedom to support their favorite candidates without fear of throwing away their votes.
Additionally, through the process of elimination and vote transfers, winning requires a consensus, and candidates running for office will have to retool their strategy accordingly. Instead of relying solely on their base voters, candidates will have to appeal to wide swaths of the electorate. They will have to convince people that they’re not just a compelling first choice, they’re also a worthy second or third choice as well. In order to win, politicians will have to extend beyond their camps from the beginning, and not just as a strategic measure during a runoff.
With benefits for voters, taxpayers, candidates and the political culture, it should come as no surprise that RCV is gaining ground in cities and states across the country. Maine has been using RCV since 2018; Alaska will use a variant of RCV for the first time this election cycle; and dozens of cities and counties use RCV in their local elections. Voters are choosing RCV as an alternative to the first-past-the-post systems they’ve used for decades.