In most of our country the way elections work frustrates and angers potential voters. The two major political parties go through their machinations. The parties each offer a few candidates in a primary election in which, in most states, the voters get to cast one vote for one candidate for each elected office of only one party. (Washington State is a little unusual with its “top two” primary system.) Many voters ignore the primary election, beginning to pay attention only before the November general election when we are asked to choose among the candidates offered by the two major parties and (sometimes) a few other candidates. Vast amounts of money and energy are expended on advertising and voter outreach, which is mostly designed to make us more disgusted with one candidate than the others, and sometimes succeeds in making us disgusted with all of them. Finally, we either turn away–or we hold our noses and cast a vote for “the lesser of evils.” Mostly, we don’t vote for “third party” candidates, no matter how appealing, for fear of the spoiler effect, the chance that one’s vote cast for such a candidate will take away a vote from the less evil of the two more likely winners. Voting with the spoiler effect in mind incentivizes a two party system–a system the Founders did not foresee.
There is a better way. The time has come to consider “ranked choice voting” (RCV). The states of Maine and Alaska have widely adopted the method. There are active movements to consider such adoption in many other states, counties, and municipalities.
Ranked choice voting is harder to explain than it is to demonstrate. This evening, Monday, December 14, from 7-8PM PST the Spokane Chapter of FairVote Washington is holding a Zoom meeting explanation of Ranked Choice Voting. I recently attended a similar chapter meeting. I found it fun and informative. If you are not a resident of Spokane County or Washington State, you are still welcome to attend. The majority of the presentation applies to any voting area. You will find it an hour well spent. Sign up here: https://www.mobilize.us/fairvotewa/event/364899/ and invite your friends. Vicki Dalton plans to attend the Zoom presentation and will take questions. Vicki is our highly respected, very practical, very non-political (although nominally a Democrat) Spokane County Auditor–the official who oversees the mechanics and details of all elections that occur in the county.
Once the mechanics of RCV are understood, the method appeals to voters of all political stripes (even though some incumbent politicians will certainly view RCV as a threat to their power). RCV as a method promises to diminish partisan rancor and division–by disincentivizing negative advertising. (FairVote Washington is a non-profit group, organized as a 501(c)(3).)
Please sign up. It’ll be an hour well spent.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. If you would like a preview of the RCV, click and watch an excellent series of very short, animated youtube videos on the concept. Produced by CGP Grey, they’re entitled “Politics in the Animal Kingdom.” They’re fun, thoughtful, and explanatory. (Note: These videos are meant for an audience in the U.K. where “First Past the Post” is what our current voting method is called and Ranked Choice Voting is called “Single Transferable Vote”. Also, the videos expand the concept of Single Transferable Vote to a broader reorganization of voting than is currently contemplated in the U.S. Nonetheless, as a presentation of general concept the videos are terrific.)
P.P.S. In Washington State the first step toward trying out RCV in any election is a slight modification of state law that would allow the voters within the state to adopt RCV as their method of choosing their elected officials at some level of government. There is already bipartisan support for such enabling legislation–and, if the legislature can’t get it done, there are plans to put such enabling legislation to the people as an initiative in 2022.