Governance Logjam, A Path Toward Fixing It?

Remember Ralph Nader in 2000 and Ross Perot 1992? Democrats argue that Nader threw the 2000 election to George Bush. Republicans argue that Perot threw the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. Every third party candidate runs the risk, especially in a close election, of handing the election to their ideological opposite. That feared outcome locks us into our log-jammed two party system.

We cannot know what would have happened in 2016 had Bernie Sanders run in the general election as a third party candidate. There are too many variables to know the outcome with any certainty, only endless room for speculation..

But consider this: What if a Sanders voter could have said with his/her ballot, “My first choice is Sanders, but if Sanders doesn’t win a majority then my second choice is ______, and my vote will be transferred to that candidate”? In such an election I’d be free to vote for whom I think is the best candidate without worrying that I might be throwing away my vote, inadvertently helping elect another candidate whom I might find wholly unacceptable.

The voting system that would better express a voter’s will is Ranked Choice Voting, recently adopted by popular referendum in the State of Maine. The idea has been around for a while. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, has used Ranked Choice Voting for the City Council and School Board elections since 1940.

Click and watch an excellent series of very short, animated youtube videos on the concept of Ranked-Choice Voting v. “First Past the Post” voting (our current method). They’re  fun, thoughtful, and explanatory. Produced by CGP Grey, they’re entitled “Politics in the Animal Kingdom.”

Ideas like Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) are tossed around for years before, all of a sudden, understanding of its value spreads widely enough to drive its adoption. With hyper-polarization of our two party system producing a logjam in our governance, now might be the time to take a serious look at what Ranked Choice Voting offers.

In the State of Washington RCV is a pertinent topic. There are two bills in the current WA State legislature session (2019-20), “Local Options for Ranked-Choice Voting” HB 1722 & SB 5708. Each has bipartisan support. If these bills became law the door would open to consider Ranked-Choice Voting in Washington State both at the state level and locally.

Have a look at “Politics in the Animal Kingdom.” For more background visit Check out the bills. On Thursday, January 9th at 3:30P a presentation of Ranked Choice Voting to the Spokane City Council is planned. Mark your calendar. I’ll provide more details later.

Nothing good happens unless someone is setting the groundwork and planning ahead. Learning about these efforts in their early phase is important work.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Currently most voting in Washington State is governed by state law that mandates the top two primary with a runoff general election, the system with which we are all familiar. Top two has been in place since it was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008–four years after 60% of the voters voted for a top two primary in 2004. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties sued to block it. You can read the timeline of Washington States voting changes here. We tend to forget that the manner in which we choose our representatives is subject to change–by us, the voters.