South Dakota Legislature poised to ban ranked choice voting

Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 12:33 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - On Thursday, the South Dakota Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 55 which would prohibit ranked choice voting in the state. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Representative Kirk Chaffee, who sponsors the bill in the House, says ranked choice voting would in some cases require people to vote for a candidate they had no desire to originally vote for.

“I think disenfranchises them; it makes where we’re trying to make voting easier and more secure,” Chaffee said. “And when you read some of the instructions on rank choice voting and I’ll use Utah as an example. Just reading the instructions made it confusing on what you’re actually doing and how to place that vote.”

While this method of voting is not practiced in South Dakota, Chaffee says SB 55 is a preventative measure to make sure it will not be put into place in the future.

What is ranked choice voting?

During an election with multiple candidates, ranked choice voting would give voters the ability to vote for more than one person by having them rank their top choices on the ballot.

If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then that candidate wins. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and those votes go to the second-ranked candidate on the voters’ list. This is continued until someone reaches 50 percent. This method avoids runoff elections.

Why does the GOP oppose it?

Currently, only Alaska and Maine use ranked choice voting for statewide and federal elections. Utah, the example Chaffee used, has limited use of rank choice voting, just in two cities and the state Republican and Democratic conventions.

Republicans were not happy with results in Alaska’s mid-term election.

Democrat Mary Peltola bested the two Republicans on the ballot, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich. While 60 percent of Alaskans voted Republican, they split that vote between Palin and Begich, giving Democrats the House seat for the first time in almost 50 years.

In the Senate race, incumbent Lisa Murkowski defeated the Trump-endorsed Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro,