Missouri House advances bill seeking to block ranked-choice voting

State Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, speaks during Missouri House debate on May 13, 2022 (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications photo)
State Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, speaks during Missouri House debate on May 13, 2022 (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications photo)

The Missouri House gave initial approval Tuesday to a resolution that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment forbidding ranked-choice voting.

Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, sponsor of House Joint Resolution 66, said his bill would enshrine Missouri's current voting system in the state Constitution to resist movement toward adopting ranked-choice voting.

Baker said ranked-choice voting is too complex and drags out tabulating election results. He argued that supporters of ranked-choice voting like it because it allows unpopular candidates to win elections that they couldn't otherwise.

"Missourians don't want more voter confusion and exhaustion when they go to the ballot box," Baker said. "They don't want slow results and increased irregularities. They don't want to show up at the polls only to have their votes thrown out."

Under ranked-choice voting, a candidate can only win the election if he or she receives a majority of the vote. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and his or her ballots are allocated to the candidate marked as a voter's second choice. This process repeats until one candidate has a majority. A ballot is not thrown out unless all of the candidates a voter marked have been eliminated from the race.

Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Independence, said he has faith that voters would be able to figure out ranked-choice voting. He said he favors the electoral system because it allows more moderates to be elected.

Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, said Baker's bill protects the Constitution and election integrity because it enshrines the principle of "one registered voter, one vote."

Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, said the problem with the current voting system is that voters do not always have a choice. Under the current system, Aune said Republicans in conservative districts are pressured to move far to the right to appeal to voters and secure the primary nomination. Once they win the primary, voters can only vote for "the most extreme Republican."

"(With ranked-choice voting,) it's not a situation where you're just voting against someone," Aune said. "We have to give people options to vote for. The two-party system, one against the other, it really doesn't work. I don't think it makes sense for a democracy."

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