Scott Hardie | June 24, 2020
I keep hearing about ranked choice voting, and how much better it would be than our current system. Hasan Minhaj just did a whole episode about it.

If you're unfamiliar, here's the idea in a nutshell. Our current electoral system is winner-take-all by a plurality of votes, meaning the single largest share of votes, which might be well below a majority. If five candidates campaign and they all get around 20% of the vote, the one with the slightly largest share is elected even though s/he only represents about one in five voters, a system that contributes to all kinds of extremism in politics. In a ranked choice system, we would all rank the candidates in the order that we prefer them. If no one captures a majority of the vote on the first round, then the lowest-ranked candidate would be eliminated, and the people who chose that candidate would have their votes automatically transferred to their second choice, and so on until one candidate got above 50%. That way, the person elected is closer to representing all of the people's wishes.

Except that they're not. There's still a weakness in there that nobody seems to acknowledge.

Let's say that an election is currently happening between four choices: Ms. Reasonable Candidate, Mr. Decent Human Being, Ms. Experienced Legislator, and Mr. Wackadoo Nutjob Extremist. None of them get a majority. Assuming that Wackadoo gets the smallest share, being a nutjob and all, his supporters' votes are then reassigned to their second choice. That just gives them inordinate power all over again. If they prefer Ms. Experienced because she once publicly supported a crazy position, she'll get their votes, potentially canceling out all of the many reasonable people who split their votes for the other choices. Why are we giving power over to small slices of the electorate again?

It seems to me that a better way to handle ranked choice voting would be to add everyone's second choices together. So we all vote, no candidate gets a majority, and everybody gets a second-choice vote. At this point, if there's still no majority, we continue with everybody getting a third-choice vote, and so on. That would much more closely represent the wishes of the people. It does pose a problem if one segment of the political spectrum is over-represented by too many candidates while another is under-represented by too few, but I would think that the major parties are organized and disciplined enough to avoid that. (A caveat about this idea: I am not a mathematician and could easily have a blind spot here that I'm missing.)

Or, we could just switch to proportional representation, which is far better than winner-take-all anyway, making ranked choice a moot point.

Denise Sawicki | June 24, 2020
I am not sure which is better really but we just got Approval Voting for local elections in Fargo, ND and were apparently the first US city to do so.

Scott Hardie | July 3, 2020
I like that! I have not heard of that before. It seems like it would help with a number of problems.


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