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Andrew Yang back in South Carolina this month to rally for ranked-choice voting

Andrew Yang, a popular 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, will be back in South Carolina later this month, joining 11 organizations that support overhauling the U.S. electoral process by moving to ranked-choice voting.

Yang will rally at the Statehouse steps in Columbia on Jan. 23 to support a system that allows voters to rank their first, second and third choice of candidates in elections. 

Currently in some South Carolina jurisdictions, in a race with three or more candidates the winner must get 50 percent of the vote plus one to advance.

If no candidate gets at least 50 percent, the contest goes to a runoff between the top two vote-getters.

Under a ranked-choice voting system, voters get to rank their preferred candidates instead of just voting for their top selection. Votes are then counted in rounds.

If a candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round, it's over. If that doesn't happen, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated in the second round.

If the eliminated candidate was your vote, then your next choice gets your vote in this round.

Yang, who left the Democratic Party last year after unsuccessful bids to become the party's 2020 presidential nominee and mayor of New York City in 2021, is one of the rally's confirmed speakers, according to a Jan. 3 news release.

He has since gone on to found the Forward Party, pitching it as a moderate alternative to the two major parties. He has also become a vocal supporter of ranked-choice voting, arguing he views it as a way to temper the polarization happening in American politics.

Critics of ranked-choice voting argue it can be confusing, but 70-year-old Clint Eisenhauer of Charleston said it's no different than deciding what's for dinner with his wife. 

"We list our preferences in order of our preferences, and if she doesn't like the first, we go to the second," said Eisenhauer, the state lead for the South Carolina Forward Party.

"Just because I don't win the first round, my second choice still works," he added. "When you go to Baskin Robbins, it's the same sort of thing."

Ranked-choice voting has struggled to take off in South Carolina, but there have been flickers of interest.

In 2022, state Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville, filed a bill to allow ranked-choice voting in South Carolina's municipal elections. The bill died in committee. A review of prefiled bills for the 2023 legislative session shows there is no early interest in tackling the topic.

Eisenhauer said he hopes the rally will encourage lawmakers to consider introducing similar legislation again and to educate voters.

Elsewhere, ranked-choice voting has gained traction.

An exit poll of Alaskans after their 2022 primary election found that 85 percent found the system "simple" to use, and 62 percent preferred the new voting system.

The list of organizations participating in the Statehouse rally includes nonpartisan groups, minor political parties and grassroots groups on both the left and right of the political spectrum.

The organizations include: Better Ballot SC, FairVote, Rank the Vote, Principles First, Lowcountry Indivisible, South Carolina Forward Party, Veterans for Political Innovation, the Alliance Party of South Carolina, Country Vote, the South Carolina Green Party and the South Carolina Libertarian Party.

Chris Himsl, an activist involved in the Columbia chapter of Principles First, is also slated to speak at the rally.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-998-5404 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Senior Politics Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is the senior politics reporter at The Post and Courier. An award-winning reporter, Byrd previously worked as an enterprise reporter for The State newspaper, where she covered the Charleston region and South Carolina politics.

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