A multimillion-dollar effort to enact ranked-choice voting in Missouri has failed after Secretary of State John Ashcroft announced the initiative will not appear on the November ballot due to an insufficient number of valid signatures submitted. The measure would have appeared as a constitutional amendment to change Missouri’s election system.
Millions in outside funding by Texas billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold and his wife Laura went into getting ranked-choice voting on the ballot. Former Obama administration and Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign staffers also worked on the effort. Luckily, the initiative failed before it hit the ballot, so ranked-choice voting will not be coming to Missouri — yet.
But the concerted effort to get Missouri to switch to a ranked-choice system is not unique to the Ozark State, Democrat and center-left activists are also pouring millions of dollars into ranked-choice voting initiatives across the country. This is strategic.
“States that have gone to a ranked-choice voting system — much like states that have gone to a mail-in balloting system — trend blue,” Gina Swoboda, executive director at the Voter Reference Foundation, told The Federalist.
For anyone who needs a primer, ranked-choice voting is an electoral system whereby voters rank candidates by preference — first, second, third, and so on — on their ballots. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the first-choice vote, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is disqualified, and their voters’ second choice picks up those votes. This process continues until one candidate scores 50 percent of the vote.
Democrats — and establishment Republicans, for that matter — see ranked-choice voting as a way to exert more control over elections, using it as a “legal” mechanism to pass over candidates voters want in favor of predetermined, establishment-backed contenders. The push for ranked-choice voting then becomes just another ploy either to thwart the will of voters or turn states blue.
States Considering Ranked-Choice Voting
In Nevada, residents will be voting on whether to approve a constitutional amendment for a ranked-choice voting system in November. While $2.26 million has been poured into the RCV campaign, most of the funding has come from outside the state.
In Virginia, although ranked-choice voting exists in certain localities, multiple nonprofit advocacy groups have formed to establish ranked-choice voting for federal and state elections. One such group is the ostensibly “nonpartisan” FairVote Virginia, a local chapter of FairVote, which is a left-wing, George Soros-funded nonprofit that seeks to eliminate the Electoral College and expand ranked-choice voting across the U.S.
In Arizona, two nonprofit advocacy groups are seeking to put a ranked-choice voting initiative on the ballot in 2024. Voter Choice Arizona is focused on implementing ranked-choice voting in several cities while it campaigns for the 2024 ballot measure. Save Democracy — comprised of 19 Arizonans, including two RINO Republicans, former Arizona State Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter — was created by Establishment GOP figures who believe the existing primary system elevates bad candidates, A.K.A., “election-deniers” who “don’t appeal to the majority of voters.”
“They need to field better candidates, make better arguments, and appeal to the people, not change the rules in order to win,” Swoboda told The Federalist, arguing that Save Democracy Arizona is out of touch with GOP voters.
While more than 50 jurisdictions across the United States already use or are planning to use ranked-choice voting in their next election, according to FairVote, only Maine and Alaska use it statewide.
Maine was the first state to approve ranked-choice voting in 2016. The PAC that spearheaded the campaign received the majority of its $1 million in funding from two sources, the left-wing Action Now Initiative and the group Level the Playing Field.
The first year Maine used ranked-choice voting in its congressional races was 2018, and in its 2nd District, Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin lost to Democrat Jared Golden after initially winning a plurality of votes in the first count. But since Poliquin did not receive at least 50 percent of the vote, the ranked-choice voting system took over and delivered Goldman the victory.
Poliquin ended up filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the system and his loss to Golden. In the lawsuit, Poliquin argued that ranked-choice voting violates Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which “sets a plurality vote as the qualification for election to the U.S. House of Representatives.” In addition, Poliquin claimed ranked-choice voting violates the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote,” diluting the weight of each vote and disenfranchising voters. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.
Poliquin plans to run for his old seat this November, and he told The Federalist he is not worried about the effect ranked-choice voting will have on the election because voters “only have to vote for one candidate and they’re done. They do not have to rank candidates. There was confusion over that in the past, but not anymore.”
In 2020, Alaska voters narrowly approved Ballot Measure 2, an initiative that established ranked-choice voting and discarded multiple party primaries, merging them all into one contest. According to Project Veritas, moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her campaign worked behind the scenes to get the measure passed. A staffer for the Alaska senator’s reelection campaign told an undercover reporter for Project Veritas that ranked-choice voting is “key” to Murkowski winning the 2022 midterm election as both Democrats and Republicans would likely put Murkowski as their second choice when casting their vote.
With Murkowski’s strong showing in Alaska’s primary last week, it looks like her team was correct. She won the most votes of any candidate in the nonpartisan primary, with 44 percent of the vote to Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka’s 40 percent. The rest of the vote was split among the other contenders. Without Ballot Measure 2’s approval, Murkowski would’ve likely lost to Tshibaka in a traditional Republican primary — proving ranked-choice voting favors more moderate, establishment-backed candidates.
Out-of-State Democratic Funding
In 2020, 55 percent of Massachusetts voters rejected an initiative that would’ve established ranked-choice voting statewide. Millions in outside funding were poured into the race in favor of the measure, including almost $3 million from the left-wing Action Now Initiative, established by the previously mentioned John and Laura Arnold. Other donors include Rupert Murdoch’s daughter-in-law Kathryn Murdoch, Goldman Sachs executive Erin Mindich, George Soros’s son Jonathan Soros, and Gehl Foods CEO Katherine Gehl.
Action Now Initiative has also spent millions of dollars to bring ranked-choice voting to Maine, Missouri, and Alaska. It gave $1 million to the successful effort to bring ranked-choice voting to New York City.
Another influential donor of the voting method is Kathryn Murdoch, a former Clinton Foundation employee and co-chair of the board at Unite America. She has donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019, the Democratic National Committee, and other Democratic congressional candidates. She was Unite America’s largest donor in 2019, donating $3.8 million to the political action committee. Unite America is a Democratic-aligned super PAC that backs open primary elections, expanding vote by mail, and ranked-choice voting. Like Action Now Initiative, Unite America was also a major donor to ranked-choice voting measures in Alaska, Massachusetts, and New York City.
Both organizations continue to spearhead and fund ranked-choice ballot initiatives across the country.
What It Means
With millions of out-of-state funding going into ranked-choice ballot measures across the U.S., it’s clear the left wants the practice to become the norm for American elections. Everywhere ranked-choice voting has been enacted, it has become a “disaster electorally” for Republicans, according to Swoboda.
Ranked-choice voting then is nothing but a sinister attempt by the left and the establishment to cement control over electoral politics by pushing out voters’ desired candidates in favor of predetermined choices. No matter what Democrats — or even moderates — might say about combating partisan elections, make no mistake: Switching to ranked-choice voting will disenfranchise voters and turn states increasingly blue.
Victoria Marshall is a staff writer at The Federalist. Her writing has been featured in the New York Post, National Review, and Townhall. She graduated from Hillsdale College in May 2021 with a major in politics and a minor in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @vemrshll.