Testimony from:
Jonathan Bydlak, Director, Governance Program, R Street Institute
Matthew Germer, Elections Fellow, R Street Institute

In SUPPORT of Senate Bill 389, establishing Ranked-Choice Voting for Connecticut

March 6, 2023

Committee on Government Administration and Elections

Co-Chairs Blumenthal and Flexer, Co-Vice Chairs Morrin Bello and Slap, and members of the committee:

Thank you for considering our testimony. Our names are Jonathan Bydlak and Matthew Germer, and we conduct research on election reform for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government across a variety of policy areas, including election reform. Much like in a market environment, incentives influence behavior in elections. This is why we are strong supporters of ranked-choice voting (RCV) and encourage you to advance Senate Bill 389.

In an RCV election, voters express their preferences by rank-ordering the candidates. Voters answer more than just “who is your favorite candidate?” Rather, they answer “how do you feel about each candidate relative to the others?” The difference between these questions may seem subtle, but the result is substantially more power for voters. If voters are comfortable with more than one candidate, they can say so. If they prefer a lesser-known candidate, they can show support without worrying about the spoiler effect. And because the RCV vote-tallying system will continue until one candidate reaches majority support, voters have more opportunities to contribute to that victory.[1]

In short, RCV empowers voters by allowing their preferences to be more closely aligned with electoral outcomes. There is substantial value in voters having input into who represents them, even if the eventual winner isn’t their first choice. In this sense, RCV makes elections function more like a marketplace, where individuals can choose the products that best satisfy their needs.

RCV also creates healthier incentives for elected officials. In order to win a contested RCV election, candidates cannot rely just on the passionate support of a narrow slice of the electorate. Rather, the structure of an RCV election can often require winning candidates to earn first-, second- or even third-place votes from a broad coalition of voters. As a result, candidates are incentivized to run on a platform that is broadly appealing, including to voters who prefer another candidate first. Once in office, elected representatives are rewarded for remaining in touch with their entire constituency and not just their political base. Ultimately, RCV encourages a more accountable government and a healthier political culture.

Although RCV brings many benefits, some may worry that a new voting system will be confusing for voters. Fortunately, RCV is becoming more common across the country, including Maine, Virginia and Utah, which has given researchers like me the chance to explore if, and where, there is confusion.[2] Ultimately, our research shows that voters are not confused by RCV ballots, and, instead, they are highly likely to take advantage of the rank-ordering features of RCV.[3]

RCV provides citizens a more effective way to communicate through voting and nudges our democracy in a healthier direction. As a result, we urge the committee to support Senate Bill 389.

Thank you for your time,

Jonathan Bydlak
Director, Governance Program
R Street Institute
(202) 503-6551
[email protected]

Matthew Germer
Elections Fellow
R Street Institute
(714) 609-6288
[email protected]

Watch the testimony below (which starts at 6:21:45):

[1] Matthew Germer, “Restoring Losers’ Consent: A Necessary Step to Stabilizing Our Democracy,” R Street Policy Study No. 240, September 2021. https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Final-No.-240.pdf.

[2] Curt Bramble and Colin Larsen, “Virginia Race Shows that Election Reforms Work,” RealClearPolicy, Nov. 2, 2021. https://www.realclearpolicy.com/articles/2021/11/02/virginia_race_shows_that_election_reforms_work_801543.html.

[3] Matthew Germer, “An Analysis of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine,” R Street Shorts No. 106, September 2021. https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Final-Short-106.pdf.