Ranked Choice Voting

By Patricia Fenati, Candidate for House of Delegates, LD 14

“Ranked Choice Voting” is promoted as a way to assure that “winners” get a majority, not just a plurality in At-Large elections.

An example of usefulness for this bill would be the Montgomery County Democrat primary for four At-Large seats on the County Council this year where a very large number of candidates are running. However, the people getting the most votes will not necessarily have been voted on by the majority of the voters.

Perhaps this voting method would be useful in this one Democratic primary, but I have a better idea for dealing with At-Large districts. Get rid of them. Why do we even have At-Large districts? For the Montgomery County Council, At-Large members were supposed to guarantee that some members of the council would consider the needs of the whole county when looking for solutions to problems. As a Damascus resident, I do not believe that the makeup of the Council, where eight out of the nine members live near or below the Beltway, guarantees any voice for the far north regions of the county.

At-Large is simply a way to assure that elected officials get most of their votes from the most densely populated areas.  I can tell you that people in Damascus do not believe that the At-Large members of our Council are at all aware of our problems.

While this bill is not currently applicable for state offices, we still are faced with At-Large elections for State House seats within a district. We run three delegates against three delegates, covering the whole district instead of running one against one in three single member districts. This all but assures that most votes come from the party of the densely populated regions, which, I believe, is a distortion of equal representation.

I believe the purpose of the bicameral system we have in Maryland is that each of three delegates should live in the area of the district they represent, and the senator should represent the whole district.If this bill were to apply to state races, it would give an advantage to the majority party. Even if an opponent could eke out enough votes from the majority party to win a close third place in a state election, it is most likely that there would be more votes from the majority party for 4th, 5th and 6th place to assure the 3rd place winner would not be able to get into office.

When this bill was introduced back in December, it was stated that it was difficult to explain exactly how Ranked Voting works. It was said several times that it is a “very complicated calculation.”

Is there anyone on this committee who can immediately explain in simple mathematical terms how Ranked Choice Voting will work? Does anyone think that most voters will be able to check out the validity of the final tabulation of votes? I was appalled when I learned that even our Board of Elections will not be able to calculate the ranked voting results, but we will have to spend time and money to let our votes be calculated by a third party. I cannot believe this complicated method of determining who wins will increase our voters’ confidence in the election system.

Ranked Voting lacks simplicity and transparency for the voter, and when added to gerrymandering and At-Large districts, it favors one party in Montgomery County.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony.
Pat Fenati
Montgomery County resident


Montgomery County Republican Party