Here’s What Needs to Happen to Make Ranked Choice Voting a Reality in Texas

The Ranked Choice Voting for Texas organization got off to a strong start in 2019. Despite being hampered by COVID, the nonpartisan group has garnered thousands of supporters and advocated for several bills that sought to incorporate ranked choice voting at different levels across the Lone Star State. 

At a strategy meeting in in July, Harriet Wasserstrum, the organization’s co-founder and chair, said ranked choice voting will help the major parties nominate candidates that will have broader voter support, as well as give other parties a chance to show their true strength.

The organization supported three bills in Texas’ 87th Legislative Session that would have introduced ranked choice voting at various levels across the state: a bill that would grant a county option for nonpartisan county, municipal, and school district elections; a bill that would enable military and overseas voters to use RCV; and a bill to adopt RCV in primary elections throughout the state. The House passed the military and overseas voter bill, but no further action was taken on the bill before the legislative session ended. The Texas Legislature meets every two years and reconvenes in January, 2023. 

In the meantime, Ranked Choice Voting for Texas seeks to build on its momentum from the last two years. Kathryn Hite de Sousa, co-founder and board member, expressed the need to mobilize voters like her who were dissatisfied with choices for general election candidates in 2016.

“With ranked choice voting, voters rank candidates by preference,” Hite de Sousa said. “Voters have the freedom to put the candidate they truly prefer first, and then sort the others by preference.” 

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then a series of “virtual” runoffs commences. In each round, the last place finisher is eliminated. All ballots that selected the last place finisher as their top choice are re-allocated to the second preference. That process continues until one candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Hite de Sousa said there are four main benefits to ranked choice voting:

  • Gives voters greater choice: Eliminates fear of throwing away their vote on someone who can’t win
  • Gives voters a stronger voice:  by taking into account voter preference, avoids voter turnout dropoff
  • Less Polarizing: Campaigns are less negative because candidates need to cast a wide net for support
  • RCV Saves Money: One trip to poll, fewer costs spent on subsequent runoffs

Because Texas doesn’t have ballot initiatives, it really will require a groundswell of support to see ranked choice voting enacted in Texas. When bills are introduced, voters who want it passed will need to reach out to their legislators.

“Texas-sized support can really make a difference with legislators who might be on the fence by showing them it’s a mainstream issue that everybody is talking about,” said Nathan Lockwood, executive director of Rank the Vote. 

Interested in helping get ranked choice voting on ballots in Texas and across the country? Join us or donate here.

Mark Bauer is a producer, entrepreneur, day trader and former Independent candidate for Congress in Texas. Previously he spent 10 years as a legal journalist covering the legal market in Texas and regulatory issues in Washington DC. Mark’s primary interests involve using content and storytelling to help different groups of people better understand one another.

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