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Banning ranked choice voting won't help GOP

Steve Goldstein for Arizona Daily Star

The 2022 campaign season began with wide-eyed optimism from Arizona Republicans. We know how that turned out in races for the highest statewide offices. Nominees who stuck to the narrative that 2020’s election was stolen from former President Donald Trump lost. Meanwhile, State Treasurer Kimberly Yee steered clear of that controversy and was easily re-elected. Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne returned to that office after a 12-year absence mostly by keeping mum about 2020. Using logic—which is, admittedly, in short supply in the current political climate — the GOP would focus on changing its internal approach and aim to select nominees with a broader appeal.

Instead, the Republicans who hold a slim majority in the state Legislature want to prevent one specific election reform that actually could have made 2022 a huge success for their party. HB2552 would make it impossible for Arizona voters to approve ranked-choice voting (sometimes referred to as instant runoff, Top Four, or Final Five). Nearly 40 Republican lawmakers have declared that RCV is bad for their party. And that’s deeply connected to what happened in Alaska last year.

An intraparty battle between former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich led to Democrat Mary Peltola unexpectedly claiming a congressional seat in the deeply red state. RCV gave Alaska voters the chance to take the four general election candidates and rank them in order of preference with first through fourth place votes. Not only did Peltola receive more first-place votes than Palin or Begich, but the rivalry between the GOP candidates also led an impactful number of their supporters to make a non-Republican their second-place choice. It seems like that’s the fault of candidates who cared more about their own success, rather than a problem with the electoral process.

Contrary to what Arizona’s GOP legislators seem to think in their attempt to ban RCV, it’s not a partisan change that would hurt Republicans. Instead, reforms that paired RCV in the general with a modified primary system allowing every voter the equal chance to participate could have been quite a boon for Republicans.

A majority of Independents and a not-insignificant number of GOP loyalists decided not to vote for nominees who chose to talk more about 2020 than, for example, the stark water challenges we face. But if those same voters had four general election choices following an open primary, it’s entirely possible that Karrin Taylor Robson would be governor right now rather than Katie Hobbs. And wouldn’t that please Republican lawmakers who have already declared a budget impasse less than one month into the legislative session?

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