A significant majority of Americans agree that the current political system is not serving them well. Common refrains are that Congress is always at a deadlock, they’re having to choose between two far-from-ideal choices, that third-party candidates “spoil” the vote, and that their vote doesn’t matter.
You can hardly blame them. There’s a lot of truth to that, and in large part, our current first-past-the-post voting system, where whoever gets the most votes wins, is to blame.
Have you ever stopped to question it though? There are so many other ways of voting, and one in particular which is gaining a lot of traction is called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).
A good number of locales are already using ranked choice voting for local, state and even federal elections, so this is not unheard of, or untested. In fact, RCV has seen usage increasing across the country, particularly in the last 20 years. The state of Maine now runs all of their local elections using RCV.
How does RCV work?
It sounds a little complicated to begin with, but at heart, it’s really quite simple.
With ranked choice voting, you take as many candidates as you want and rank them in order of preference. That is to say that if you want to vote for just one candidate, you can, but you also have the option to rank them all if you want.
When the votes are counted, if any candidate has more than 50% of the 1st choice votes, they win. However, if no one reaches that 50% threshold, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and their votes are reassigned to their second choice candidate. This process continues until someone has more than 50% of the vote.
Why RCV is better
There are myriad reasons why Ranked Choice Voting is better than plurality voting. FairVote does a good job of explaining this at length, but in short here’s a few benefits:
- It promotes majority support, meaning that a candidate requires the support of more than 50% of the voters, even if the candidate isn’t their first choice.
- It encourages third-party candidates and multiple candidates from the same party. In our current duopoly, third-party candidates are commonly ignored and berated for “spoiling the vote”. You can also choose your favourite candidate from a party during the election since the need for primaries is removed meaning more choice for voters.
- It encourages minority participation. Having a larger field allows minorities to choose candidates that reflect their priorities.
What can Oregonians do about it?
I’m an Oregonian and I’ve been following RCV initiatives for quite a while because I think they’re a much better way of voting. I just found out that 3 bills were introduced in this current session which seek to bring in RCV statewide:
Using the links above, you can subscribe to updates from the bills’ progress, and of course you can (and should) contact your representatives about voicing your support for RCV.