Another Way

I beiefly mentioned rank choice voting in a recent article. Today I’d like to explore it a bit with you.

In races with more than two candidates, the voter ranks their choices, or at least the first two or three. Then the 50% + 1 rule is in effect and candidates can’t get elected without majority support. What this system seems to accomplish is to make it more difficult to prevent fringe candidates from being elected and to some degree combat gerrymandering.

I’ll use myself as an example of a voter in a hypothetical race involving a liberal Democrat, a Green Party candidate, a conservative Republican and a MAGA Republican. Assuming no extraordinary circumstances, under our current system I’d vote for the liberal Democrat. If I’m in a gerrymandered district the Green Party candidate stands no chance of election. If the local Republican party has been corrupted and the district is gerrymandered red, the MAGA candidate will win. In a rank choice system, I’d rank the liberal Democrat number one, the Green Party candidate number two and the conservative Republican number three.

Most likely I’d find the Green Party candidate acceptable even if their platform was a bit narrow for me. While I might disagree with the conservative Republican on some policies, I’d still probably feel they were not a danger to democracy or America. With gerrymandering the choice is too often between a liberal Democrat and a MAGA (read: danger to democracy and America) Republican candidate. Sans rank choice voting (and due to other barriers) third party candidates are non-existent or relegated to only useless (and often harmful) “protest votes” with no chance of winning.

If you want a current example of where a rank choice system would have saved the government (a/k/a you, the taxpayer) money look no further than the Georgia Senate runoff. The third-party candidate’s votes would have been automatically allocated to either candidate and a lot of both money and time would have been saved.

The biggest harm the current system is doing is that both caucuses in any legislative body are getting more extreme because extremists do well in most party primaries and by the time you get to the general, they are the only choices (or viable ones at least). I’m paraphrasing a line from Barney Frank, but is it realistic to expect them to work together and accomplish anything?

The instant runoff varies a bit by method but basically if no candidate gets a majority in the initial count, the voters’ second (and possibly more) choice(s) come into play until someone does. Currently the biggest drawback to the system – in the rare cases where it is currently used in America – is the delay in the not so instant runoffs. Technology, which will be utilized as the system becomes more commonplace, can easily expedite the process and still leave a clear audit trail for anyone who wants to verify and/or dispute the results.

There is a lot of merit to a rank choice system and it is worth exploring.

This article was written well ahead of publishing in order to accommodate my year end hiatus and is the property of Its content may not be used without citing the source. It may not be reproduced without the permission of Larry Marciniak.