Chipping Away At Toxic Partisanship – Embracing Rank Choice Voting
Recently, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Alaska Rank Choice Voting System. If one believes restoring democracy in the United States requires a functional two-party system, Rank Choice Voting (also known as RCV) is an important improvement to our current voting process. In the United States, RCV is used in two states, Maine and Alaska, and in 42 cities including 23 jurisdictions in Utah, which demonstrates the growing appeal of Rank Choice Voting.
The virtue of RCV is that it rewards moderation and punishes extremism.
Political Darwinism currently favors the rigid and uncompromising. In many voting districts and states, candidates winning Republican or Democratic party primaries are virtually guaranteed to prevail in the general elections. Whoever wins the most primary voters from the favored political party, be it Democrats or Republicans, are elected. Often less than 25% of voters cast a ballot in primaries, meaning candidates with little overall support get elected to office. This incentives political candidates to appeal to fringe voters who make up the majority of primary turnout. And the end result are politicians disproportionately elected by the hardcore right or left, leaving in its wake an exhausted majority.
Given this reality, it is little wonder that our political perspectives appear to be so divided and bipartisanship is all but dead.
With Rank Choice Voting, voters mark their ballot by selecting their first-choice candidate and then ranking the remaining candidates in order of preference. The winner is the first candidate to achieve more than 50% of the votes through multiple rounds of calculations, with each round eliminating the candidate with the least amount of votes and then redistributing the votes of the second-choice candidates, and so on.
Thus, the winner is far more likely to be a person that appeals to a broad spectrum of the electorate. Once in office, the winner in an RCV based election is far more likely to be a person of moderate political beliefs willing to engage with similarly disposed members of the other party.
The thesis is simple. RCV promotes moderation. Moderation leads to civil discourse in our body politic and stability. Stability allows businesses to flourish. When business flourishes it generates economic resources to establish a social safety net and strong infrastructure and defense. We all win. Think about it!