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Georgia Senate committee advances bill to outlaw ranked-choice voting

A bill that would prohibit the use of ranked-choice voting in Georgia elections passed a Senate committee on Tuesday, despite opposition from some voting rights advocates and local officials.

What is ranked-choice voting and why is it controversial?

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is a method of voting that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, instead of choosing just one. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to the next-ranked candidates. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of the remaining votes.

Supporters of RCV say that it promotes majority rule, reduces negative campaigning, eliminates the spoiler effect, and encourages more diverse and representative candidates. Opponents of RCV say that it is confusing, costly, prone to errors, and violates the principle of one person, one vote.

What does the bill propose and who supports it?

Senate Bill 355, sponsored by Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, would ban the use of RCV in any election in Georgia, including federal, state, and local races. The bill would also prohibit the use of any voting system that requires more than one round of tabulation or that does not produce a paper ballot.

Georgia Senate committee advances bill to outlaw ranked-choice voting

The bill is supported by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who said that RCV is designed to cause confusion and fatigue among voters, and that it could lead to a drastic increase in the number of ballots being thrown out, disenfranchising Georgia voters. Jones also said that RCV is pushed by dark money groups and that it could open the door for voter fraud and manipulation.

The bill passed the Senate Ethics Committee by an 8-1 vote on Tuesday, with only Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, voting against it. The bill now moves to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether to send it to the full Senate for a vote.

What are the arguments against the bill and who opposes it?

Critics of the bill say that it is an unnecessary and unconstitutional infringement on the right of local governments and voters to choose their own voting methods. They also say that the bill is based on misinformation and fearmongering, and that it ignores the benefits and popularity of RCV.

Some of the opponents of the bill include FairVote Georgia, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for RCV and other electoral reforms; the city of East Point, which adopted RCV for its local elections in 2020; and former state Rep. Valencia Stovall, an independent candidate for lieutenant governor who supports RCV.

They argue that RCV is a simple and fair way of voting that gives voters more choice and voice, and that it has been successfully used in other states and countries, such as Maine, Alaska, New York City, Ireland, and Australia. They also point out that RCV is compatible with paper ballots and audits, and that it does not violate the one person, one vote principle, as each voter’s vote counts equally in each round of tabulation.

What are the implications and prospects of the bill?

If the bill becomes law, it would effectively prevent any jurisdiction in Georgia from adopting or implementing RCV in the future, and it would also invalidate the existing RCV ordinance in East Point, which has not yet been used in an election. The bill could also face legal challenges, as some courts have ruled that RCV does not violate the U.S. Constitution or state constitutions.

The bill’s chances of passing the Senate and the House are uncertain, as it could face opposition from some lawmakers who support local control or who are wary of changing the voting system after the 2020 election, which was marred by controversy and lawsuits over Georgia’s voting laws and procedures. The bill would also need the approval of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has not publicly expressed his position on RCV.

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