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Florida bans ranked-choice voting in new elections law

Gov. Ron DeSantis in Spring Hill, April 25, 2022
Posted at 9:56 AM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 10:47:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that creates a police force dedicated to pursuing voter fraud and other election crimes, but that's not all it does.

The bill signed on Monday also eliminates ranked-choice voting for all elections in Florida.

Senate Bill 524 specifically said it was "prohibiting the use of ranked-choice voting to determine election or nomination to elective office; voiding existing or future local ordinances authorizing the use of ranked choice voting."

This means cities or counties can't pass their own laws on ranked-choice voting.

In a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots rather than selecting just one.

The candidate with the majority of first-choice votes wins outright. However, if no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, an “instant runoff” takes place. That means that the candidate who finished last is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters ballots are redistributed to their second-choice pick. This process continues until there is a clear majority winner or candidate won with more than half of the vote.

Proponents of the measure say it's a way to escape the two-party system and eliminate the need for runoff elections.

The battle for ranked-choice voting has been in Florida for over a decade. In 2007, Sarasota voted to use it in future municipal elections, but the state never certified the necessary software so it couldn't be used.

In 2021, the Clearwater City Council made plans for a ballot proposition that would allow the city to switch to ranked-choice elections, but the new law will make that decision moot.

More than 50 cities nationwide have switched to ranked-choice voting, including San Francisco, Oakland and New York. In addition, Maine and Alaska use it for statewide elections.