Ranked Choice Voting

There’s a frustration amongst the people of this country. The feeling that our voice doesn’t matter. That only the candidates chosen by party leadership have any hope of winning a seat in elected office. That issues that matter to our daily lives will never see the light of the Senate floor. That any effort to break into politics will be thwarted by the donkey/elephant duopoly.

For instance, on the conservative side, the Libertarian Party was formed in 1971. Yet it only holds 1 House seat currently on the national stage, Justin Amash (who will be transitioning out of office in 2021.) On the liberal side, the Green Party was formed in 2001 but does not hold notable office. Neither party has made much progress due to how the winner-take-all system works to coerce voters to choose based on “electability” instead of the issues that matter most to them.

People have proposed several ways to reform voting in the United States. As 2 of the last 5 presidential winners did not win the popular vote, the Electoral College has gained the main focus of our scorn. Abolishing it would ensure that every person’s vote would count the same regardless of gerrymandering or the state in which they live.

However, even if the Electoral College was abolished, it would still leave the problems mentioned above. For that, ranked choice voting is the most expedient way to reform our election process. It works within the system that currently exists while still making every person’s voice heard. Small changes are easier to achieve than major overhauls-especially ones that require changes to the United States Constitution (Article II, Section 1). But small changes can still have major impacts.

If we were to implement ranked choice voting (also known as “instant-runoff voting”), the voters would choose multiple candidates ranked from the top choice down to their least favorite. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, the lowest vote holder is removed, and their votes are reallocated to the second choice on those ballots. This would continue to occur until there was a clear winner in the election. Voters’ would be freed from having to vote strategically from the top two parties or “waste” their ballot on a protest vote. This change would open the door to third parties and enable us to have a much more representative government.

With more parties allowed to come to fruition, the viable platforms would have more variety. It wouldn’t be an argument of whether one supports gun ownership or not, but rather who can own which kinds of weapons and what the vetting process would look like. Instead of polar arguments about abortion, we can have a nuanced conversation about reproductive rights and medical coverage. Ranked choice voting would open up so many conversations.

Twenty states currently  use or will use ranked choice voting. In Maine, ranked choice is used for Senate, US House, and party primaries. Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina use RCV for military and overseas voters to participate in runoff elections (like the Senate Election in Georgia). Eighteen cities use ranked choice voting at a local level. And Alaska just passed an initiative and will begin using ranked choice voting in 2022 for primaries and general elections-including presidential.

In Michigan, there is a broad-base, politically diverse organization called Rank MI Vote (rankmivote.org) laying the groundwork. They are holding town halls to help educate the population. Hopefully, this will gain traction, and we’ll bring about changes to how Michiganders elect our representatives soon. If we want to see a brighter future with more issues discussed and fewer party politics, we need to institute ranked choice voting.