Law & Principles

OCPA praises effort to ban ranked-choice voting

Staff | January 19, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 19, 2024)—Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small today praised lawmakers for seeking to ban ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma, noting that ranked-choice voting undermines public confidence in election outcomes and reduces transparency.

“Everywhere that ranked-choice voting has been tried, it has caused enormous problems,” Small said. “With ranked-choice voting, hand recounts become impossible, election results may not be known for weeks, and ballots become increasingly lengthy and confusing. Oklahoma already has one of the best, and most transparent, election systems in the nation. We don’t need to ‘fix’ our system, especially not with a half-baked idea like ranked-choice voting.”

Currently in Oklahoma general elections, the person who receives the most votes wins. In Oklahoma primaries, a runoff election is held between the top two vote-getters if no candidate receives majority support.

But in a ranked-choice voting system, voters cast ballots to designate their first choice in a race, their second choice, and so on down the ballot. If no candidate receives majority support, the second-choice votes of the candidate who finishes last are reallocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote at that time, the process repeats again and again until one candidate has received a majority.

In multi-candidate races, such as primaries, ranked-choice voting ballots can run many pages in length. During a legislative study conducted on the issue in September, an official from Alaska warned that the ballot “looks like an engineering chart” and that spoiled ballots become far more common.

At that same legislative study, Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax warned lawmakers they would have to replace all state election machines if ranked-choice voting were adopted and warned the system would prevent same-day tabulation of results.

“I think the days of knowing the election results on election night would be long gone,” Ziriax told lawmakers.

Officials noted that it took two weeks to determine the outcome of a 2022 statewide election conducted in Alaska using ranked-choice voting. The state of Alaska had implemented ranked-choice voting following the narrow passage of a referendum, but public backlash quickly resulted. A referendum to repeal Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system is underway and state lawmakers have also advanced a bill to repeal the system.

As of today, at least four Oklahoma lawmakers have filed legislation to protect voters from the problems caused by ranked-choice voting systems.

Senate Bill 1610, by state Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, would ban ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma.

House Bill 3592, by state Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, would also make ranked-choice voting illegal in Oklahoma.

House Bill 3156, by state Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, similarly bars the use of ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma elections.

Senate Bill 1991, by state Sen. Shane Jett, R-Shawnee, also prohibits ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma.

At least five states have already banned ranked-choice voting: Florida, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota.

“I appreciate Senator Daniels, Senator Jett, Representative Hill and Representative Roberts for taking on this potential problem and working to nip it in the bud,” Small said. “These bills deserve strong support from lawmakers and the public.”


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