State Senate Committee Approves Ban on Ranked-choice Voting

Dave Williams

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

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A Georgia Senate committee has approved legislation that would ban ranked-choice voting in Georgia.

A well-funded campaign is afoot across the nation to allow ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference, Senate Majority Whip Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, told members of the Senate Ethics Committee late Tuesday.

Ranked-choice voting is allowed statewide only in Maine and Alaska, while Georgia permits it only for members of the military and other Georgians living overseas.

But cities including San Francisco and New York City have been using ranked-choice voting, Robertson said. In New York, it took 15 days to decide the winner of the mayoral race in 2021 because of the complexity of the ballot, he said.

“If you want (a voter) to stand in line all day, hand them a ballot with all these choices and decisions,” he said.

Madeline Malisa of Maine, a visiting fellow with the Opportunity Solutions Project, a nonpartisan group that works on voting issues, said ranked-choice voting has been a “disaster” in Maine. Voter confusion over crowded ballots filled with candidates causes a large number of ballots to be rejected, delaying results in some cases for weeks or months, she said.

“Voters are required to vote for every candidate on the ballot or their vote is thrown out,” Malisa said. “Results like these do not inspire confidence.”

But two former members of the Georgia House of Representatives testified that ranked-choice voting would allow the state to eliminate costly, time-consuming runoff elections.

Former Republican Rep. Scot Turner of Cherokee County pointed to a study conducted by Kennesaw State University that found statewide runoffs cost Georgia taxpayers $75 million, while voter turnout for runoffs typically falls well below that for general elections.

“Runoffs cause voter fatigue, added former GOP Rep. Wes Cantrell, also from Cherokee County. “Millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted. The only people who like runoffs are political consultants.”

Senate Bill 355 now moves to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a vote of the full Senate.