Dean Phillips, a rising star in Congress, thinks America is on the cusp of embracing ranked-choice voting

I didn't plan for this episode to be about ranked-choice voting, but when I raised the topic, I was surprised at the degree to which Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, was really gung-ho about this reform.

I've done several episodes on ranked-choice voting before, but to sum it up if you're new to the idea: voters list candidates in order of preference. If no one gets above 50 percent, then the candidate with the most second- and third-place votes wins. The general idea is that it produces winners who are most preferable to the majority of voters, rather than allowing candidates to win with just 30 or 40 percent in a crowded field where other candidates split up the vote.

Phillips made a little news here, I thought. He said he wants to push Democrats in the house of representatives to use ranked-choice voting in their next leadership contest, after the 2022 mid-term elections. Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said this is her last term as Democrat leader, and so in 2022, Dems will be looking for a new Speaker if they're in the majority or a new Minority leader if Republicans win back the majority.

Phillips also said he does not think Congress should mandate ranked-choice voting across the country. He said it's currently working as reforms should, starting in localities and cities and states, and proving its worth as it bubbles up. But he also said he does support the bill that we discussed on this show with Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, which would mandate ranked choice voting nationally. Maybe because he's still new to Congress or because he's a younger member at 52, or both, Phillips was pretty honest, saying he doesn't think the Beyer bill will pass but he supports it because it raises awareness of the topic.

Phillips was first elected to Congress in 2018 and won reelection in 2020. He is heir to the Phillips distilling fortune, and was the company’s CEO from 2000 to 2012. He then went on to fund and manage two other investments: Talenti gelato, which he sold in 2014 and is now a national brand, and a coffee and crepe eatery in Minneapolis. He has stood out in Congress for his willingness to buck leadership at times, opposing the idea of overturning an Iowa House election, and for attempts to talk about racism and police reform in a non-reductionist way. His district is suburban and well-off, and he has received high marks from Congressional accountability groups for both bipartisanship and productivity.


Minneapolis was one of the earliest adopters of ranked choice voting. The city adopted the system for its 2009 elections. There are growing numbers of cities that are now doing the same. The biggest of these is New York City, which will use ranked-choice voting in its citywide primary elections on June 22. The conservative state of Utah announced this month that after two cities used ranked choice voting in municipal...

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