Reform Round Up: August 26th, 2016

Posted by Ben Fogarty on August 26, 2016

Catch up on the latest in electoral reform news with our round up of folks across the country writing and talking about FairVote’s reform vision: 

  • Former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean and FairVote’s Executive Director Rob Richie talk about ranked choice voting and fair representation on the Freakonomics podcast: “If I could do a single thing in American politics, it would be to get rid of the single-vote for your favorite candidate. Right now, we vote for one person, and that person either wins or doesn’t win...There’s a system called ranked-choice voting, where you don’t get just your vote for the top choice that you have, you also get to vote on all the other choices....And I think that makes voters happy, it makes politicians behave better, and it’s something that’s coming slowly to the United States and where we have it, it works well.”

  • Sandy Maisel, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Colby College, recommends ranked choice voting as a way to restore civility and majority rule ahead of Maine’s upcoming ballot referendum in the Bangor Daily News: “These political scientists — and many others — writing for professional journals and review by their peers, are not arguing for or against ranked-choice voting. They are trying to determine its effects. They do not argue that ranked-choice voting is the best or the only reform to improve our electoral system. But what they do say is that it works to have some of the beneficial consequences its proponents seek — increased turnout, majority winners, less incivility, the elimination of “spoiler” candidates — without the obvious negative consequences some opponents fear. Their conclusions are worth considering.”

  • Saul Anuzis, a former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, explains how ranked choice voting primaries unite parties by encouraging civil campaigning and selecting consensus winners on The Hill: “Imagine if the more than half million Republicans who voted early, but had their vote count for a candidate who had withdrawn by the date of their primary, had been able to have their vote still count for their next choice. Imagine if the candidates had sought from day one to be the consensus nominee. Imagine if we had learned which candidate had majority support in every state when paired head-to-head against their strongest opponent.”

  • David Blatt, the executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, writes that replacing Oklahoma’s primary runoffs with instant runoff voting could save money for the state and give voters more voice in the Journal Record: “The main reason Oklahoma should get off the traditional runoff is that turnout plunges in almost every runoff contest….A second round of voting also drives up the cost of elections by up to $1 million, according to the Oklahoma Election Board...Instant runoff would ensure that winning candidates enjoy majority support without the added cost and diminished turnout of a runoff. Unless we are satisfied with elections being decided by a tiny fraction of the electorate, these are changes Oklahoma should seriously consider.”

  • FairVote’s Andrew Douglas also penned an op-ed in The Oklahoman on replacing runoff elections with ranked choice voting in Oklahoma, highlighting research showing that it fosters more civil campaigns, and more satisfying elections for voters: “Research shows that it does more than just save money: In 2013 and 2014, political scientists Todd Donovan and Caroline Tolbert worked with the Rutgers-Eagleton poll to survey more than 4,800 voters in seven cities using ranked-choice voting and 14 “control” cities without it. A strong majority of voters in ranked-choice voting cities supported keeping it, and voters in those cities generally found the campaigns to be more civil and satisfying.”

  • Donald L. Horowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus at Duke University, suggests that ranked choice voting primaries would produce more widely supported nominees on Real Clear Politics: “Worse yet, if the victorious candidate has intense support among that minority but very thin support among other voters—in other words, if he is the second or third choice of relatively few voters—he will have great difficulty winning the general election. In a significant way, such a candidate will not be the most popular candidate who contested in that primary, because in a large field with only one winner, the most popular candidate—the one with widespread support—can only be discerned by identifying second and third, and maybe even fourth, preferences among the voters.”

  • Susannah Wellford, the founder and president of Running Start, tells a story about how using ranked choice voting in Running Start’s mock election created a consensus winner that left more people satisfied with the result in U.S. News and World Report: “Here is what we learned: While the traditional vote yielded a great choice, she only got 30 percent of the total votes. 70 percent of the voters had chosen someone else and were disappointed. With ranked choice voting, no one got over 50 percent of the vote and so the instant runoff was triggered. The result was that everyone's second choice won with huge support. And, no surprise, it was Nen. Everyone was happy that Nen had won – they all supported her almost as much as their first choice candidate. Ranked choice voting gave the group a consensus winner – as well as allowing someone decidedly non-mainstream to prevail. Maybe it is time to look at new voting systems so that we are all happier with who we elect.”

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board expresses support for a “Top Four” primary followed by a general election using ranked choice voting as a way to open up the political system to outsiders: “Another intriguing alternative is to hold a "top four" non-partisan primary election, which would be open to all candidates and voters, followed by a general election that uses ranked-choice voting to pick the winner. As advocated by FairVote, an election reform group, voters would pick their top four candidates in order of preference. If none gets a majority of first-place votes, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated and the loser's second choice votes are assigned to the remaining three candidates. The process continues until one candidate wins a majority.”

  • Krist Novoselić, the chair of FairVote’s board of directors, advocates for ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts as a solution to uncontested Congressional races in Playboy: “The idea that a district should be represented by only one person has no constitutional basis and is flat-out wrong...But the problem is not multi-seat districts. We need voting rules that use these kinds of districts to give more people a real voice in elections. Here’s how we get to a potent vote and fair representation.”

  • Steve Brawner suggests that Arkansas would benefit from ranked choice voting given the current political climate and should look to Maine as an example: “It’s clear that Americans are unhappy with their democracy. Typically they respond by trying to change people, which is why Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, two candidates very different from the norm, won so much support. But attempting change through people is often disappointing because the system keeps one person from having too much power, thank goodness. To make lasting change, change the system. Is ranked choice voting the best way to do that? I’m willing to try this doughnut, or at least let Mainers do it and ask them how they like it.”

Image Source: Todd Lappin

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