Bills are being proposed across the US to scrap First Past the Post

Doug Cowan, Head of Digital

Posted on the 5th February 2021

Electoral reform is gaining momentum across the USA as an impressive number of state legislatures are considering reforming their local and statewide elections.

So far, 30 bills to scrap First Past the Post and bring in preferential voting (called Ranked Choice Voting or RCV in the US) have already been put forward in states and cities across the country.

Our friends at FairVote, the leading campaigners for electoral reform in the USA, have created a legislation tracker to keep tabs on the progress of the bills.

There is a long history of preferential voting in the USA, in both its single winner incarnation (that we call the Alternative Vote) and multi-winner (that we call the Single Transferable Vote).

Between 1915 and 1936, two dozen US cities adopted STV for their local elections. Gradually many re-imposed first past the post, not because it did not live up to its supporters’ claims – it was rejected because it did.

The preferential voting revival picked up speed when Maine voted to adopt its single winner incarnation in 2016.

Stepping forward to 2021, single-winner preferential voting is garnering more bipartisan support across the US, as evidenced in Georgia. Senior Republican officials have joined Georgia Democrats in proposing it for military and overseas voters to streamline the arduous mailing process for run-off voting, by cutting down the number of forms that voters need to mail to election officials.

The growing bipartisan sponsorship of this bill shows what happens when an electoral system is judged on its merits rather than becoming a politicised proxy for other issues.

Oregon is also making considerable strides in updating its election process, with a wide range of lawmakers seeking to expand usage of preferential voting after its resounding success and popularity with voters in Benton County. These efforts can be seen in House Bills 2678 and 2686, which aim to reform state and local elections by using preferential voting to elect state officials. With over a dozen sponsors for these two bills, Oregon seems poised to modernise its election systems and become the next leader in electoral reform within the country.

The impressive pace at which legislation championing electoral reform has come along in the first month of 2021 indicates that preferential voting is an important issue for US voters.

With an impressive amount of state legislatures working to modernise their election systems, 2021 promises to be an exciting year for election reform across the pond, with states working to make sure their elections truly give voters a voice.

This article is largely based on 2021 Already Showing Promise for RCV Reforms by FairVote. Follow them for the latest updates on the campaign to scrap Westminster style first past the post in the USA.

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