Friday, November 12, 2010

Ranked Choice Voting

There is a better, fairer and more democratic way to vote! Try it! You’ll like it!
by Charlie Leck

We’re getting a strong push here in Minnesota for Ranked Choice Voting [RCV]. I think its day is coming. We belong to an organization up here called FairVote MN and we contribute some money to its work. Here’s how they explain what they stand for and what they are working toward:

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank candidates on the ballot according to their preference - 1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, etc. Voters cast their vote for their favorite candidate knowing that if he or she doesn't gather enough votes to win, their vote will count toward their second choice. In a single-winner election, votes cast for the least popular candidate are not "wasted", but rather redistributed to more popular candidates, based on the voters' second choices, until one candidate wins with a majority of votes.
In the election for governor here in Minnesota, we haven't had any candidate elected by a majority since Arne Carlson in 1996.

In the gubernatorial election we just had, I am quite certain that the candidate I supported the most enthusiastically, and who was elected, wouldn’t have won under the ranked choice system. Nevertheless, I support the system because I think it seems more democratic than having officials elected with less than a majority of the votes.

Here’s an opinion-piece, written by three solid Minnesota Republicans, touting the virtues of Ranked Choice voting. It appeared in our local news rag up here, the StarTribune.

A number of cities across the nation use RCV in their municipal elections and its proven itself to be easy, clear and fair. RCV is used in the following jurisdictions:

Aspen (CO)
Berkeley (CA)
Burlington (VT)
Cambridge (MA)
Hendersonville (NC)
Minneapolis (MN)
Oakland (CA)
Pierce County (WA)
San Francisco
South Carolina (for overseas voters in fed and state runoffs)
Takoma Park (MD)

In 2011, Memphis (TN), Springfield (IL) and Telluride (CO) will all begin using the system in city elections. The voting method is standard procedure in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland. It also used by the city of London.

If you’re interested in learning more, a Google search will bring you plenty of information and lots of opinions. You might want to first start with Rob Richie’s November 2009 article on the Huffington Post. John Nichols’ piece in Nation Magazine, We Need Majority-Rule Elections, is also very informative.

There’s probably a FairVote organization in your state. Just google “FairVote” and include your state's initials – such as, “FairVote SC” or “FairVote MI” or “FairVote NJ” – and join up if you think the process makes sense.

The method will make it much more difficult for 3rd parties or independents to spoil election results.


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  1. Charles,

    You probably don't get many comments but I beleive it is neccessary to clear up you many mistakes in your post. It looks like you read a rather old sales brochure on RCV.

    Many of the cities that have used RCV have gotten buyers remorse and repelaed RCV:

    Aspen, CO - Repealed Nov. 4, 2010
    Burlington, VT - Repealed March 2010
    Pierce County, WA - Repealed Nov. 2009
    Cary, NC - Repealed 2009

    And possibly will be repealed in the post child of RCV elections - San Francisco (due to a Federal Lawsuit and problems with this election)