Ranked-Choice Voting Is on the Rise—From the Academy Awards to the Texas Legislature

Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!

The nation celebrated Ranked-Choice Voting Day on Monday—but every day is RCV Day at RepresentWomen.

Stories from this week highlight the use of RCV in a diverse range of states and situations. RCV truly is the fastest-growing election reform in America in 2023, and for good reason. It solves fundamental problems in our politics—like the representation crisis. Our research shows that building women’s political power requires system reforms to ensure women can runwinserve and lead

AAPI Winners: Proportional RCV and Representation at the Oscars

Despite the Oscars failing to nominate any woman directors this year, Asian American projects have led the way. This includes the nomination of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu.

The Academy Award nominations used multi-winner, proportional ranked-choice voting. This form of RCV ensures that winners are selected proportionally to the number of vote casts.

In 2015, the Oscars experienced the #OscarsSoWhite scandal. In 2022, the increased diversity is clear. 

Michelle Yeoh was also named TIME 2022’s Icon of the Year:

Yeoh has been a major star in Asia for decades—she was a giant in the golden age of Hong Kong action cinema, top-lining dozens of films and earning a reputation for nailing daring stunts. And she made her Hollywood debut in the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” following up that success with roles in major movies like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings…”

“I’ve thought about it,” Yeoh tells @lucyfeld. “And not just me—I feel like my full Asian community has thought about it. They come up to me and they say, ‘You’re doing it for us.’”

I had the opportunity in 2019 to visit the American Academy of Motion Pictures Office in Los Angeles. The conference table below is where the board of governors of the American Academy of Motion Pictures meets. It was terrific to see yet another place where ranked-choice voting is being used.

Andrew Yang Talks Ranked-Choice Voting in South Carolina

On Jan. 23, ranked-choice voting supporters gathered at the South Carolina Statehouse to discuss the current electoral system, which they called “broken.” They proposed ranked-choice voting as a solution. The event was headlined by Andrew Yang, who ran for president in 2020.

“This is the only way to improve our politics, change the incentives and make it so our leaders have to answer to us,” Yang told the eclectic crowd of members of the Green Party, Libertarian Party, and other ranked-choice enthusiasts. About 50 people attended.

“Half the time your vote doesn’t matter, and most Americans know that because they’ve been set up in a district where their vote doesn’t count,” he said.

In ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the lowest number of first-rank votes is eliminated and their voters’ votes are resigned to their second choice and so on until a winner emerges.

Ranked-choice voting helps women win elections by eliminating vote splitting/spoilers and encourages positive campaigning. This week RepresentWomen released a memo titled “Ranked-Choice Voting and Women’s Representation”  about how RCV benefits women. For more information on RCV check out our newly updated RCV Dashboard.

Columbia University Names First Woman President

Nemat Shafik will be Columbia University’s new president. The economist has served as the president of the London School of Economics. Before her role at LSE, Dr. Shalif was the deputy governor of the Bank of England. She was the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from April 2011 until March 2014.

The changes in academic areas are reflective of society’s push for equal representation. To concur with The Honorable Baroness Shafik, relevancy matters. Right now, nothing is more relevant than women breaking glass ceilings through leadership and service.

In a letter to the Columbia community, the university’s board of trustees said it had found a “perfect candidate” in Dr. Shafik, 60, a “brilliant and able global leader, a community builder and a pre-eminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it.”

The selection of Dr. Shafik, known as Minouche, marks the first time a woman has been named to lead the prestigious New York institution. It follows the recent appointments of women to head other top universities, including Harvard, Dartmouth, M.I.T., the University of Pennsylvania, and George Washington University.

She will assume the Columbia presidency in July, succeeding Lee C. Bollinger, at a tumultuous time in the academic world. Universities face a pending Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, as well as debates over free speech and the high cost of education, college rankings, pay for teaching assistants, and other issues.

During an appearance where she was introduced to Columbia’s campus on Wednesday, Dr. Shafik emphasized her commitment to “increase the diversity of people and ideas and lived experiences” and address skeptics who doubt the value of education.

“We are at a moment in history where universities need to be both scholarly and relevant,” she added.

State Representative Vicki Goodwin Seeks to Make RCV a Reality in Texas

Texas State Representative Vikki Goodwin has proposed new legislation that will bring ranked-choice voting to the lone star state! Although Goodwin’s plan to implement RCV in Texas has received criticism from some members of the public as well as elected public servants, many of her like-minded peers have thrown their support behind the representative.

“The goal is to eliminate run-offs for non-partisan elections,” said State Representative Vicki Goodwin.

The Democrat from Austin filed the bill that would bring ranked-choice voting for local municipal elections.

“If no one gets the majority, then they look at who got the least number of votes. Then take those ballots and now they count the second place votes and add them to the prior votes, so in the second round someone may get a majority of votes. At that point in time, they win the election,” said Goodwin. 

State Representative Carl Sherman implemented ranked-choice voting for the election of committee, board and commission members during his time as mayor of DeSoto.

“I think what Representative Goodwin filed is a thoughtful bill that gets us closer to a more perfect democracy,” said Sherman.

Goodwin hopes her proposal gets to the floor for a vote.

“If we start with our municipal elections people may see how it works and realize it has a lot of benefits,” she said.

City Council Considers Manhattan Board of Elections Nominee Who Ruled in Ranked-Choice Voting Case

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. (Twitter)

NYC’s implementation of RCV in 2021 resulted in historic outcomes that allowed women to successfully run, win and lead. However, it also raised concerns from independent organizations and law-making bodies. The New York City Council experienced internal fractionalization because of differing opinions about the implementation of RCV.

The first ranked-choice election was held in February 2021, in a special election for City Council District 24 in Queens. But in the months prior to that election, six members of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, all Democrats, sued to stop its implementation, citing concerns about the pandemic’s disruption and arguing that the Board of Elections had failed to adequately educate voters about the system, which could subsequently disenfranchise racial minorities. 

But Edmead, a retiring Manhattan Supreme Court Judge and ally of Manhattan Democratic county leader Keith Wright, refused the Council members’ plea ahead of the special election and eventually struck down the lawsuit in May 2021.

Despite the data, Speaker Adams still has her reservations. “As one of many who questioned the implementation of ranked-choice voting, my belief is still that education was not appropriate to those that ranked-choice voting was meant to serve,” she said at the hearing.   

There is some weight to her concerns. An analysis by Politico New York showed that wealthier, whiter neighborhoods were more likely to more extensively use ranked-choice voting than low-income communities of color. 

“My opinion is that the data was in the voting itself…People of the City of New York spoke and chose not to use it in way too many cases for my druthers, but that’s just my opinion,” she added.

This week, I ventured down to Atlanta to be a guest lecturer at Kennesaw State University. It was wonderful getting to speak with great professors including Timothy Matthews (pictured below) and students about women’s representation in the United States and internationally! 

Have you seen RepresentWomen’s new Ranked-Choice Voting Memo? Check out our website for more resources on RCV, gender balanced appointments, and more!

That’s it for this week, enjoy your weekend!

—Cynthia and the RepresentWomen team

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

RepresentWomen’s mission is to strengthen U.S. democracy by advancing reforms that break down barriers to ensure more women can run, win, serve and lead. The team engages in research to track the status of women’s representation in the U.S. and abroad, understand the underlying reasons women are underrepresented, and find evidence-based solutions to mitigate the problem.
Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen and a founding board member of the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations. Terrell is an outspoken advocate for innovative rules and systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote—a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation, voting system reform and democracy in the United States and abroad.