GA Election Integrity Provision Shows Why RCV Ban Goes Too Far
The weird combination of committee passage of two bills in Capitols 870 miles apart, and this week’s NFC championship game caused me to make a nostalgic call to the first client I ever took around the Georgia Capitol - Riki Ellison.
The unrelated bills passed by committees Tuesday included a Georgia ban on most ranked ballots in Georgia by an 8-1 committee vote, and (unrelated to Take Back Our Republic Action) a Wisconsin pro-life bill Senator Ron Johnson and I testified for this week that passed committee 9-7 and then the full House 53-46 on Thursday (with no Democratic support).
The NFC Championship was relevant because the Packers were eliminated by the 49ers, the team that featured Riki at starting linebacker when they won two NFC titles in the 1980s by a combined score of 51-3 en route to Riki getting his Super Bowl rings.
Years later my work for Riki’s new organization, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance began with the hilarious routine of Riki waking me up at 6 am every morning to go lift weights “with him,” and by that I mean a tiny fraction of what he was benching. We would then head over to meet Georgia legislators about a different kind of defense - one to shoot down enemy missiles. I’ll reserve the rest of the story of Riki’s incredible life for this film “The Defender”, if you are interested.
Notable RCV Exception in GA Ban
As I asked for support for the Wisconsin pro-life bill I kept a proverbial eye on Atlanta, as a Georgia Senate Committee passed a measure banning ranked-choice voting – although thankfully, it specifically preserved the one use of ranked ballots that passed in 2021 after two years of lobbying by Take Back Our Republic Action.
Ranked Ballot for Military as Part of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021
Years after lobbying with Riki, I started meeting Georgia legislators (this time without a client with Super Bowl rings in his pocket) as Take Back Our Republic Action registered to lobby and see if limited options for ranked ballots made sense for Georgia. Like my time with Riki, this effort also involved a military argument–but of a different kind.
I always said if I wrote a book it would be entitled “Better Lucky than Good,” and never was this more evident than when the specific ranked ballot for the military was added to Senate Bill 202 along with almost every other election integrity measure supported by Take Back Our Republic Action. The bill that would become known as Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 included our complete wish list of election rules:
limiting ballot drop boxes
barring officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms (like Nevada)
remained one of 29 states that do NOT allow same-day voter registration (a practice so bad that less than 40% of New Yorkers supported it when put to a vote)
adding voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots
creating the state’s first ranked ballots (for overseas military)
The last item we supported makes so much sense that even the ranked-choice voting ban that passed the Georgia Senate Committee Tuesday specifically stated an exception to allow overseas military to continue to use the ranked ballot. For a few years we had argued that it was unfair to force a Georgia soldier somewhere in Afghanistan to track down a ballot, send it back overseas to be counted, and then if a runoff resulted, track down another ballot and vote a second time.
The liberal attacks on the bill as “voter suppression” lack any merit, as noted in this link. It was a great bill. It passed in early 2021, two months after I was on Sean Hannity’s radio show with 28 million listeners talking about the Georgia election process more broadly.
How the Georgia Exception Shows the Problem with RCV Bans
The central point regarding this exception is that Georgia has tried only one limited situation in which they use a ranked ballot, it worked so well that they decided to keep it even while voting others - so why blanket ban the use of any ranked ballot to the tool away from conservatives that might be used in another specific, limited case?
While we agree elections like the ones in San Francisco, New York, or Maine asking voters to rank 11–or 22–candidates are way too confusing, the other extreme of banning RCV to take away the option of a GOP or red state legislature from EVER using a ranked ballot is evident in the fact that Georgia saw that the ballots worked for overseas military–and would be a good tool in other specific instances.
In the cast of the 2021 Georgia law that included the ranked ballots for military overseas, liberal hypocrisy was highlighted as Stacey Abrams attacked the bill. Her complaints? Start with shortening the period of early voting to a couple of weeks … even while she was praising New Jersey for having a SHORTER early voting period.
This hypocrisy is similar to a recent election reform proposal in Wisconsin. Liberals attacked this week’s push for non-partisan redistricting in Wisconsin after years of pushing for it–only because their new plan is to use their liberal Supreme Court to attempt to redistrict Republicans out of power in any branch of government.
A GOP state legislature banning any ranked ballot does not do anything to stop blue Maine from using wide-open ranked-choice voting as a tool to target a Republican Governor LePage–it simply takes away the tool from Republicans to use to stop spoiler efforts run by outside liberal billionaires to divide the conservative vote.
Conservative legislators can still defeat specific wide-open ranked ballot proposals but leave their options open in specific cases where using a ranked ballot would ensure that a liberal candidate cannot win with a minority of the votes by dividing a conservative majority of voters among several candidates.
Specifically, consider how Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin won with a ranked nomination ballot, while on the other side, the lack of a Final Five ballot very likely cost Trump wins in Wisconsin and Georgia, among a half dozen states where Democratic Presidential Electors or US Senators won with a minority of votes because a ranked ballot was not an option.
Virginia Ranked Ballot - GOP WIN. Just one year after Biden won Virginia by double digits against Trump, the Democratic-controlled government used Covid as an excuse to prevent Republicans from meeting to choose their nominees for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. I ran 22 nominating conventions and won 16 (the other six will read this and give me grief) and in most cases, a convention created a great send-off of thousands of conservatives to work for the nominee. My first boss, George Allen, was 38 points behind but left a convention of 13,000 and became Governor with my client and friend Jim Gilmore as Attorney General.
In the most recent Virginia election, four of the five serious conservative candidates for Governor were familiar to me. A former candidate client called me and told me that someone with a name I had never heard before would be the next Governor. “Who in the world is Glenn Youngkin?” I asked. After hearing the explanation, I said, “He will never make it through a GOP nomination.”
What tool did Virginia Republicans have after the Democrats outlawed their convention? A ranked ballot.
Because the Democratic-controlled government would not let Republicans meet to build support for their nominee like we did to pull off the Allen and Gilmore upsets years before, Republicans came up with a ranked ballot and the five major candidates all worked to be the first or at least second choice of voters – like we’d done at convention for years before – and the ranked ballot produced a truly incredible ticket of Youngkin, Lt. Governor Winsome Sears and my long-time friend Attorney General Jason Miyares.
Wisconsin - Losses Without a Final Five Ballot. When I saw the stunning Virginia win play out, I noted that a similar ballot limited to five candidates would have prevented a liberal spoiler strategy in Wisconsin. In 2020, only Wisconsin conservative candidates who could take votes away from Trump were on the ballot, while the two main candidates who would have cost Biden votes (Kanye West and Green Party) were kept off the ballot.
As I noted in a recent NewsMax piece asking other states to consider what Georgia did with their Election Integrity Act of 2021, Biden won Wisconsin by 20,000 votes, but likely would have lost if the 38,000 voters for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place candidates–conservative Libertarian, pro-life Solidarity and Constitution parties–had a ranked ballot to decide if Trump or Biden got their vote after their candidate finished 3rd, 4th or 5th.
Nevada - Voters Approve Final Five Ballot & Dump Democratic Governor Who Opposed It
The liberal Harry Reid machine in Nevada perfected the scheme of having liberals win races with a minority of votes, so their team ran the campaign to defeat Final Five. The Democratic Governor went so far as to run a legal effort to not allow voters to vote on Final Five. All failed, as voters defeated the Democratic Governor and approved Final Five.
Utah and Others Might Provide Other Exceptions to a Complete Ban
A complete RCV ban may sound good to many of my friends, but it takes away tools that can be used in specific cases of a ballot with five or fewer candidates–tools that can stop a lot of the games now played in the system.
I’ve been very critical of ranked ballots with more than five candidates in places like San Francisco, New York and Maine, just as our original communications director Ric Grenell (later Trump cabinet and Ambassador to Germany) and I have pointed out how terrible Nevada’s process of mailing unsolicited ballots.
However, former Utah Clerk Josh Daniels, a Republican from the county that is home to Brigham Young University, testified along with me and many of my fellow Wisconsinites in favor of the Final Five proposal. Years ago he took me on a tour of Utah’s mail-in system, and I saw how thorough it is (try to sign even your spouse's name on a ballot and you will get a call from an election official).
If Utah has figured out how to use some version of ranked-choice voting and how to run a secure mail-in ballot campaign, then it seems better to simply stop specific measures rather than a blanket ban.
Saying MOST ranked-choice voting systems should be stopped makes perfect sense - a universal ban does not.