In Support of Ranked Choice Voting

I’m friends with a wide range of people on Facebook. Everyone from staunch conservatives to arch liberals. And as we’ve approached the vote tomorrow, I’ve seen more and more posts crop up around Ranked Choice Voting. For those of you outside the state, know that Maine will become the first state in the nation tomorrow to try out a new system of voting in America. Instead of just picking the one candidate you like the most, you can rank them in order of preference. As many as you like. Here’s a quick overview:

Let me state this right off: I voted for this back in 2016 back when it was on the ballot the first time, and I’m going to vote for it again tomorrow, since politicians have tried to insist they don’t want to let this voting system stand. (How many times do citizens have to vote on an issue before it’s finally approved and finalized? Apparently many more than I thought.)

Why am I in support of this method? Perhaps it’s easiest to run down the arguments I’m seeing against it, and why I find them without merit:

  • “Votes get thrown in the trash”–This is the argument I keep hearing louder than any other. Basically, some say that in this new method, if you just vote for one person and don’t rank anyone else, then your vote gets tossed entirely after the first round (if the vote goes to extra rounds). It’s as if you never voted in the first place. Honestly, I find that argument disingenuous and misleading. I voted for Romney in 2012. Obama got re-elected instead. I voted for Clinton in 2016. Trump won. In both instances, my vote got “thrown in the trash” as soon as my candidate lost. (Maybe because I clearly lack any sort of consistency when it comes to which candidates I choose to vote for . . .) Honestly, I’m baffled by this argument. The only way your vote gets “thrown in the trash” is if the only person you chose to vote for . . . loses. Which is exactly what happens under the old system. Your vote was dead at that point anyway. But under the new system, people who actually care enough to rank more candidates get to keep taking part in the process. This argument isn’t isn’t a reason to be against RCV, it’s a reason to be in support of it.
  • “It’s too complicated”–It’s a grid, folks. Candidates on the left, rankings up top. Fill in the circles. I get that it’s more complicated than filling in a single circle, but this isn’t rocket science. If people still want to just vote for one person, they can. Still, I can see how some people will be confused by the layout, and how they might end up inadvertently voting in a way that will invalidate their vote. I think the benefit outweighs that risk. (More on that later.) What definitely IS too complicated is deciphering the wording on the People’s Veto to keep RCV: “Question 1: Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in the election of candidates for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain the method only if the constitution is amended by December 1, 2021, to allow ranked-choice voting for candidates in state elections?” In case you were wondering, if you want RCV to stay, vote YES on Question 1. If you want it to go, vote NO.
  • “It takes too long”–It’s true. It takes longer to figure out who won under Ranked Choice Voting. Maybe as long as an extra week. But considering whomever is elected ends up being our leader for the next 4 years, I tend to think taking a bit of extra time is worth the wait. What’s the rush? It’s not like they become Governor the next day.
  • “It violates ‘one person one vote'”–The argument here is that no one’s vote should count more than someone else’s. But if Person A only ranks 1 candidate, and person B ranks 3, and person A’s vote ends up falling out because their choice received the fewest votes, then Person B’s vote gets counted more often than person A’s. Except this is nonsensical. All RCV does is start a runoff election if a majority isn’t reached after the first vote. In this case, it’s as if Person A chose not to vote in the runoff election, but Person B did. *shrugs*

This doesn’t have to be complex. Get to know the candidates in advance. Decide who you like the most. Decide if there’s anyone else you’d like if that person doesn’t win. Decide if there’s someone you really do NOT want to win. Reach your conclusion, and vote appropriately.

Republicans tend to be against RCV at the moment. Democrats are in favor of it. Something tells me that if Republicans had lost the Governor’s seat because their vote had been split twice in a row just barely, then that would be reversed. To me, this isn’t about political parties. It’s about taking steps to make the country less polarized. To allow actual centrist candidates a chance to win. To break the stranglehold the two party system has on our nation right now.

All of that is worth upsetting a few apple carts.

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