Policy: Ranked Choice Voting
Last week we talked about Automatic Voter Registration and how streamlining that process can make life easier for many Minnesotans. This week we're sticking with the theme of voting reform and talking about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a system which addresses many criticisms of our current methods. Our current system (called plurality voting or first-past-the-post) has everyone check only the box next to one candidate, and whichever candidate gets the most votes wins even if they received less than 50% of the vote. Even in the most basic civics class, we teach democracy means majority rule, but then in reality settle our elections without a majority being reached. Our system needs to reflect our values. Additionally there is the issue of the 'spoiler candidate.' Especially in the 2016 election we heard the line, "I don't like either candidate, but I don't want to vote for a third party because then I'm throwing my vote away!" This isn't a new complaint. The impact of 'spoiler candidates' is frequently discussed in elections at the local, state, and national levels. All around the country we're seeing cities and states adopt RCV to address that very problem, and give people confidence that their vote matters. Twelve states, including Minnesota, now contain cities that use this method for determining results.  Minneapolis has been using it for over a decade, with St. Paul and St. Louis Park adding it since . It's time to institute it on the state level, just as states like Maine already have. In RCV you order the candidates in terms of how much you want them to hold office. The candidate you like the most you would rank first, your second choice candidate you would rank second, and so on for as many candidates as you want to vote for. If there's only one or two candidates you like, you don't have to mark more than that. You can see a sample of what a ranked choice ballot looks like here.  To give an example, let's say you have 100 voters deciding between candidates A, B, and C. If 51 of the 100 voters rank candidate A as their first choice, then the election is immediately over and candidate A wins since they received a majority of the votes. But if instead the first choices looked like this: Candidate A - 45 Votes Candidate B - 42 Votes Candidate C - 13 Votes In our current system, candidate A would be declared the winner despite a majority of votes going against them. In RCV, candidate C would be eliminated since they had the least first place votes and then any voter who put candidate C as their first choice would have their second choice counted. For simplicity’s sake, let's say every person who voted for candidate C as their first choice had candidate B as their second choice. The final tally would then be: Candidate A - 45 Votes Candidate B - 55 votes Candidate B would then be declared the winner of the election. Here is a link to a oneminute video that was put together before Maine voted for RCV, explaining the process.  Candidate B could take office knowing that a true majority of voters wanted them there. Candidate C's voters could feel good that they got to vote for who they wanted most while not being accused of 'splitting the vote' and therefor ruining the legitimacy of the election. A side benefit is also that this encourages more positive campaigns. Candidates are less likely to run on pure negativity and mud slinging since appealing to a voter isn't an all or nothing proposition. Candidate A being insulting to candidate B might prevent candidate B's voters from putting Candidate A as a second choice, which could mean the difference in the election. Candidates are forced to focus more heavily on why people should vote for them rather than why voters shouldn't vote for someone else. One of the most basic steps we can take to restore confidence that our government can accomplish good for everyone is to allow voters to vote with their conscience instead of their fears. Ranked Choice Voting allows people to do that and should be adopted statewide.