By Mac Warner
WV Secretary of State
In West Virginia, we have confidence in our election results and we pride ourselves that every eligible vote cast is counted. Proposals to change the way we conduct elections and count ballots threaten West Virginians’ confidence in elections.
In some states, advocates have pushed state and local officials to adopt the Ranked Choice Voting. Recently, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin hinted at his desire to change the American system of voting that has been in place for the last 248 years. I oppose those efforts. To maintain confidence in elections, we should not change the election process in West Virginia.
Ranked Choice Voting is a confusing system that requires voters to rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference. It often results in candidates who may have majority support losing the election. Ranked Choice Voting also routinely leads to legally cast ballots being discarded. This generates confusion, gamesmanship, and apathy as voters arrange their preferences only to learn that, for example, the candidate who received the most #1 votes came in third in the election.
Ranked Choice Voting also takes substantially longer to determine election outcomes. The delay caused by the elimination of candidates and recounting each time someone drops causes concern in the waiting electorate. Voter confidence wanes over time, and conspiracy theories take hold. Some jurisdictions have taken weeks to produce Ranked Choice Voting results.
West Virginia’s election process is recognized nationwide as one to emulate. Here we deliver unofficial election results on election night. Voters can track additional ballots or corrections during canvassing, and elections are usually certified in the same week.
I have testified four times on Capitol Hill to share West Virginia’s accomplishments including removing over 400,000 outdated names from our once-bloated voter registration rolls and producing fast and accurate election results. I struggle to explain any positive outcomes of altering this process besides the obvious political benefits of getting elected by confusing voters.
Ranked Choice Voting has been used in Alaska to elect a senator who couldn’t win her own party’s primary. In Maine, the process discarded enough ballots to change the results in a Congressional race in 2018. In 2022 in California, Ranked Choice Voting programming had an error that resulted in a recount and a new winner. In 2022, an At-Large Congressional Special and the General Election had 15,000 editions of ballot counting and recounting prior to determining the winner.
Voting should be easy and ballot instructions should be simple. Since this country was founded, winners were the candidates who received the most votes. Changes to this process will not happen under my watch. I urge the Legislature to prohibit Ranked Choice Voting in West Virginia.
WV Secretary of State Mac Warner is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and spent 23 years in the United States Army. He retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He spent 2011 through 2015 in Afghanistan working with the U.S State Department.