I made the joke/observation in the headline on Twitter this morning. I thought it was just an interesting way of bringing a local lens (Maine will be voting on a ranked-choice voting referendum this November) to the national issue of Donald Trump conquering the Republican Party. (Or should I say seizing it through eminent domain?)
Little did I know that there’s actually been research on the subject. Rob Richie, executive director of the pro-RCV organization FairVote, responded to let me know that they partnered with YouGov to conduct a poll of the primaries last month to explore the potential effects of a ranked-choice system (where instead of just choosing one candidate, voters would rank their preferences and votes would transfer until one contender exceeds 50% of the vote)
— Rob Richie (@Rob_Richie) February 26, 2016
I’m not sure if he meant to say “related” or if they really are elated at the prospect of showcasing their preferred form of electoral reform, but either way it’s an interesting exercise. You can play around with the numbers using an app on their site.
According to their analysis, given the dynamics of the race last month when the survey was conducted, in a ranked-choice vote system Ted Cruz would actually slightly edge Donald Trump in the popular vote (with 50.68%) after all the other candidates were eliminated. (Which, for the record, is an equally terrifying result.)
What these numbers don’t tell us, of course, is how the fact of running under a ranked-choice system would have affected the campaigns and the race in broader ways to this point.
What this poll does indicate is that in the electoral system that exists now, there is virtually no chance of a more establishment-friendly (and just slightly saner) candidate knocking off Trump at this point. Rubio seems to be the top anti-Trump choice, but even if he were the last one standing against Trump and the preferences of voters transferred perfectly (as in FairVote’s mathematical scenario), Rubio would still lose the popular vote to The Donald by about ten percentage points.
The structure of the primary system and the fact that other candidates remain in the race make Rubio’s road even more difficult.