Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Victory for Ranked-Choice Voting

Ranked-choice voting has passed in Maine.

Had ranked-choice voting been in effect generally, across the Union, the results of this election might have been very different, as the second choices of Libertarian, Green, and other third-party voters would have been invoked. Then again, the results might NOT have been different; but they would have been more palatable to voters, as the winner of each state would always be chosen by simple majority and the method itself would have had a strong influence on the campaign.

We have never seen a more divisive campaign. Rather than vote their consciences, for a candidate that most accurately reflects their views, people voted "strategically", to place a winner. This is never... and I repeat, never... the most satisfactory way to select a candidate.

Quick review: We currently have "first past the post" elections in 50 states. You simply say, "I want X," and if X has the more votes than the other candidates, X wins. That doesn't mean that X had the majority of the votes. If there are one or more third parties in a contentious campaign, he likely didn't. The result is that "first past the post" often selects a candidate by plurality that most voters didn't want.

In ranked-choice voting, you rank the candidates in order of preference. You essentially say, "I want X. But if X doesn't win, I can live with Y. If neither of them wins, then Z. But W is my least favorite." Then if nobody has a majority (51%), then the candidate with the least number of votes gives up his votes to his voters' second choices, and so on, until someone has a clear majority. This is explained in detail at

The point is, with ranked choice voting we'd always wind up with a candidate that most Americans said they could at least live with, and that person would always be elected by a clear majority.

Also, people would be more inclined to vote their conscience rather than vote strategically. You'll always get a better choice because people would not be pressured into voting for a giant douche simply because they don't want a shit sandwich in office. Candidates would be forced to focus on issues, because those are what would make or break an election. And that's not just applicable to the general election. You can be absolutely sure that had ranked-choice voting been in effect in the primaries, we would not have been faced with this choice.

Furthermore, it would be the end of the ridiculous claim that voting your conscience is "a vote for the other side". This particular claim is incalculably stupid. The problem is never, never, never that the voter expressed his honest opinion at the polls. That's what voters are supposed to do. The problem is that we have a system that actively discourages voters from doing what they're supposed to do. As Maine proved last night, you can do something about that.

There was a lot of media talk about ignorant voters last night. Some have said they despise third-party choices. Let's be clear. The ignorant voters are the ones who didn't go out there and do what they were supposed to do and vote their conscience. They're ignorant because they don't know how the system is supposed to work, so they opt to perpetuate a broken system. A candidate should never be despised for offering an alternative, whether you agree with it or not. And voters should never be despised for choosing someone who fairly represents them. If you're blaming them, you're the problem. You.

If you're in any way dissatisfied with this election, whether at the nation, state, or local level -- if you feel the wrong candidates won, or the results were artificially tight -- then do something about it. Press your state legislature or back a citizen's initiative to get ranked-choice voting on the ballot in your state. In the long term, this is the most important issue we face. It can prevent this country from tearing itself in half. It is more important than a wall, or free "stuff", or any issue that was hotly debated in this election. It is literally the best thing you can do for your country, and the most effective way of keeping America's "Great Experiment" alive.

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