Michael Paul Williams' recent column argued, "Ranked-choice voting in Richmond shouldn't be exclusive. If it's good for City Council, it should be good for all." It is great that the city has decided to look past its current voting system and consider ranked-choice voting (RCV), but which version would be best?
The most common one is single-winner RCV (swRCV), best described as instant runoff voting. The other is proportional RCV (ProRCV), also known as single transferable vote.
ProRCV is a form of proportional representation, meaning it is designed to elect a body of people that roughly matches the political spread of the voting populace. First, a vote quota is set to determine which candidates make the cut. Voters rank each candidate, and any candidate with enough first-place votes to reach the quota is elected.
Surplus votes — votes for a candidate in excess of the quota — are transferred to that ballot's next highest-ranked candidate. If no candidate has enough votes to reach the quota, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated.
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The ballots then are recounted, ignoring votes for eliminated candidates. This process continues until all seats have been filled or the number of remaining candidates equals the number of seats to fill.
The main pro of using ProRCV is elected candidates are more representative of the population than swRCV with single-seat districts. The con is it requires multiseat districts to work.
This could be seen as significant change, but prior to 1977, Richmond elected its City Council at-large, so multiseat districts really would be a compromise between that system and current single-seat districts.
While I personally prefer other voting methods (namely approval voting), City Council has a unique opportunity to enact meaningful change with proportional representation.