Guest columnist: Ranked choice voting will prevent wasted votes and secure our elections

Election access and integrity are two of the most important issues facing our democracy, which is why I've supported increased access to early voting and vote by mail, and now the next step in election reform, Ranked Choice Voting.

That's why I'm championing legislation to adopt RCV in presidential primaries in Illinois.

Presidential primaries across the country can result in millions of wasted votes.

In the last Illinois presidential primaries alone, over 70,000 Democratic and 30,000 Republican votes were wasted because early and vote-by-mail voters cast ballots for candidates who had dropped out by the time Illinois' primary day arrived.

This also has an outsize impact on service members voting by mail from overseas.

We can't continue to accept that votes go to waste. Luckily we can address that problem through RCV elections, which prevent wasted votes by allowing voters to rank the candidates in order of their preference. If their first choice candidate drops out, the voter's second choice will get their vote, and so on.

Similarly, candidates in Illinois's Democratic presidential primary only win delegates at the convention if they win at least 15% of our state's vote; if they don't reach that threshold, those voters' preferences have no actual impact on the nomination process.

RCV better reflects voters' opinions by asking for their preferences if their most-favored candidate does not receive enough votes.

This ranking process also ensures that each party's presidential nominee is stronger because they've received buy-in from more voters.

We see exactly that happening in states that have adopted RCV. In 2020, 98% of voters in states with RCV primaries saw their vote contribute to a candidate winning delegates, compared to just 88% in single-choice primary states such as Illinois.

Indeed, RCV has been adopted around the country and the world in a wide variety of elections. Specifically, Maine will be using RCV in 2024 and three red states and one blue state already use RCV in their Democratic presidential primaries: Alaska, Kansas, Wyoming and Hawaii. In all four states' 2020 primaries, voters showed a high level of understanding of the RCV ballots and made no significant errors.

This goes to show that voters can easily adapt to the ranking system. After all, we rank lots of things in our daily lives, from sports teams to favorite foods.

Not only will RCV prevent wasted votes and build stronger nominees, but it is also a win for election security.

Voters are concerned about election tampering from foreign countries and with the accuracy of our voting machines here at home.

RCV elections can be audited and provide a full accounting of the votes, which is far more transparent than the results of single-choice elections and makes it simple to prove that our elections are free and fair.

And while all Illinois counties should have modern election equipment, some are unfortunately using outdated machines and are well overdue for needed upgrades. RCV elections are smoothly run on all modern voting machines, so implementing RCV in next year's presidential primaries gives us a head start on improving all our elections.

It would mean a faster timeline for all our counties to get top-of-the-line equipment that ensures election integrity and security for years to come.

• State Sen. Laura Murphy is a Democrat from Des Plaines.

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