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Ranked-Choice Voting Needs To Explored

November 18, 2018

Ranked voting has received much attention this year–and for good reason.  While I have not yet attached my cart to this team of horses, I can say I am reading and learning more and more about it.  I am slowly warming to the idea.

Today the Boston Globe has a must read editorial for those who are pondering such a way to cast ballots.

One of the reasons to seriously consider it is due to the need of all candidates not to go nuclear on their opponents as that may backfire when voters make a second selection—and so on.  Ranked voting is one idea where civility might be enforced–to some degree–into the electoral process.  That would be a good thing.  Who knows, candidates might talk more about issues than throwing mud which might land right back on the one with the extended arm.  That latter sentiment is one I have long argued for on this blog.

Ranked-choice voting may sound complicated, but it’s really not. It’s basically an instant runoff in contests where no candidate has secured a majority of the vote. In ranked-choice elections, citizens don’t just vote for one candidate on Election Day. If they want, they can rank them all, in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority, the hopeful who received the least first-choice votes is dropped, and those votes are redistributed to the next choice of his or her voters. That process continues until enough candidates have been eliminated, and enough votes reallocated, to deliver one candidate a majority.

Maine, a state where elections frequently feature one or more independent candidates, has had unfortunate experiences with plurality winners. Combative, divisive Paul LePage first won the governorship in a multi-candidate race with a slender plurality of 37.6 percent, giving him a victory he almost certainly wouldn’t have secured in a head-to-head contest. Because of a Maine constitutional issue, ranked-choice voting governs primaries, but doesn’t apply in general elections for governor or for legislative seats. It is used in all primaries, however, and in general elections for federal offices.

Conservatives will of course grouse because, in this instance, ranked-choice resulted in a loss for Poliquin, the last Republican House member in New England. But the Second District will end up with a member of Congress more in sync with its wants. And ranked-choice voting could just as easily work in the GOP’s favor in a contest where right-leaning independents split conservative votes that otherwise would have consolidated around the Republican nominee.

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