HONOLULU (KHON2) — With just two weeks to go until the 2022 general election, ballots have been mailed out and many are now selecting the people they want in office. But, what if you could pick more than one in the same race and rank your favorites? It’s a process coming to Hawaii’s special elections and is making waves across the country.
It is called ranked choice voting, and it’s gaining steam nationwide in many city elections like New York and San Francisco along with general and primaries in Alaska and Maine.
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Although the process will not be used in this year’s general election here at home, starting next year when Hawai’i has a special federal election or special election of vacant county council seats, this is how it will work:
You can rank each candidate on your ballot. Votes are counted in rounds. The candidate with the fewest first-place votes in each round is eliminated.
If you’ve voted for a candidate who’s been eliminated, then your second choice gets your vote. If that person is also eliminated, then it’s your third choice, and so on.
The process is repeated round-by-round until two candidates remain, with the most votes winning the election.
“In special elections. You often get a long list of people who are running and what it results in if it’s just the plurality winner, you can get a winner with 10% of the vote, and that doesn’t really truly reflect the will of the people that district,” State Senator Karl Rhoads (D) said.
Sen. Rhoads authored Hawaii’s bill. He thinks this is a starting point and a test to see how the system works.
Supporters believe that ranked-choice voting in primary and general elections forces candidates to appeal to more voters. It is also supported by many third-party candidates who say it avoids voting between candidates you might not like.
“It keeps candidates from going to the extremes, catering to their base and trying to win elections just on a turnout from their base, because in a ranked-choice situation you don’t want to alienate everybody else, because they still might vote for you on their second or third choice,” Sen. Rhoads said.
But those who oppose it say it’s too confusing.
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“The people who vote don’t know who their existing incumbent is in congress or their existing incumbent in the state legislature. Nobody knows our name.,” Hawaii State Representative Gene Ward (R) said. “So to expect you’re going to be able to vote 1,2, 3, and 4, and know who those people are it is impossible. Data is not there. It’s just a fad, it’s gimmicky, it’s cute, but it’s not effective,”
The law goes into effect on January 1, 2023. This year’s general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8.