RCV Candidate Tip #8: Building Coalitions

This is the eighth in our series of weekly tips about campaigning under Ranked Choice Voting. This week we consider the potential benefit of building coalitions in a multicandidate race.

RCV Presents an Upside

In a traditional election there tends to be little to gain from positioning yourself as similar to another candidate since a voter’s only action is to pick their first choice. Under RCV in a race with several candidates, the opportunity emerges for you to benefit from aligning with other candidates. First choices are still the most important and you shouldn’t distract from what makes you the best candidate, but RCV also allows you to emphasize what you have in common with your opponents.

Positioning to Win Lower Choices

If you are not able to secure a majority of the first choices to win, it is not likely a wise campaign strategy to expect the second- and lower-choice votes you need will come effortlessly or at random. Positioning your campaign in an informal coalition with other candidates can help ensure that the lower-choice support you may need to win is available.

The 2010 campaign for Mayor of Oakland again serves as an example of the maximum benefit a campaign can receive from campaigning as part of a coalition. In short, Jean Quan’s campaign successfully aligned with several other candidates in pursuit of second- and third- choice support. In contrast, her leading opponent was able to gain the most first choices, but fell well short of a majority because he declined to actively seek votes from the supporters of eliminated candidates.

If you think there is a chance there will not be a majority winner from first choices alone, consider what you share in common with any of your opponents and what different messages might appeal to their supporters. It is possible that a separate message might be needed to win a second choice, depending on who the voter has decided on for a first choice.

Make Your Rankings Public

A very direct way to position yourself in a coalition with other candidates is to publicly declare your lower choices. You can build out the specific messages on what you share with these other candidates, but this simple action can appeal to their supporters on its own. If a voter sees that you will be ranking their favorite candidate, it serves as an easy signal that you deserve a higher choice when they vote.

In case you missed it, here are our links to previous tips:

RCV Tip #1: Using the Language of Ranked Choice Voting in Your Campaign

RCV Tip #2: the Road to 50%+1

RCV Tip #3: RCV Messaging and Your Website

RCV Tip #4: Get ready to start asking for lower-choice support

RCV Tip #5: Can we host a fun ranked vote at your event?

RCV Tip #6: Training Your Campaign Team on RCV

RCV Tip #7: Candidate Forums