Reform Roundup: October 28th, 2016

Posted by Avi Steele on October 28, 2016

Catch up on the week’s electoral reform news with our round up of folks across the country writing and talking about FairVote’s reform vision. We also invite you to read these highlights of great press for ranked choice voting in 2016.

  • Hendrik Hertzberg explains how ranked choice voting would broaden the range of ideas represented in the political process in The Nation: “It would be enough if all ranked-choice voting did was to get rid of the spoiler effect and its lamentable perversities (case in point: Florida, 2000). But the salutary side effects of this system of casting and counting votes go well beyond that. RCV opens up elections, primary and general alike, to a broader, more diverse range of candidates, ideas, and, yes, parties. Because it gives candidates a powerful incentive to be the second (or third or fourth, if the field is big enough) choice of their rivals’ first-preference supporters, it discourages incivility in general, and scorched-earth, zero-sum negative campaigning in particular. By the same token, it incentivizes good manners and a willingness to entertain the possibility of compromise. It guarantees that the ultimate winner will always be someone who’s at least acceptable, however grudgingly, to a majority—and it never yields a winner whom the majority simply cannot abide. It empowers voters to deliver a more nuanced message and allows candidates—who, if the counting goes to more than one round, will know where the votes that put them over the top came from—to receive one.”

  • Kate Samuelson lists ranked choice voting as one of seven ideas to improve American democracy in Time Magazine: “Many voters who don’t like the major-party nominees worry that voting for a third-party candidate will mean “throwing away” their vote. But Australia, India and Ireland avoid this problem by allowing voters to rank their choices. If their first choice doesn’t make the cut, then their vote goes to their second pick, until one candidate reaches a majority. When Maine citizens go to vote this election, they will be given the option to agree to adopt ranked-choice voting when electing their governor, state legislators and members of Congress from now on. A poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald suggested that the measure may be popular enough to pass, too.”

  • Howard Dean continues his advocacy of ranked choice voting in an editorial to the Corvallis Gazette Times: “It is so important that next month Benton County lead Oregon in turning our lose-lose electoral rules into a win-win — one where minor parties can compete on a more level playing field, yet major parties don’t have to fear being ‘spoiled.’ Benton County Measure 2-100 would establish ranked-choice voting for general and special elections for county commissioners and sheriff. Primaries would not be affected. Ranked-choice voting is already used by tens of millions of voters, including in Australia and Ireland’s national elections, London, Minnesota’s twin cities and eight other American cities when electing mayors. It is also used at more than 50 American colleges — including Oregon State University.”

  • Law professor Joshua Douglas names Maine’s Question 5 as one of several promising initiatives for voting rights in a column for USA Today: “All politics is local, as the saying goes, and the same is true of election law. Although the U.S. Constitution protects the right to vote, local laws can expand its scope and influence democratic representation. Voters across the country are making choices this fall that will not only affect state and local elections, they will also serve as the catalysts for nationwide reforms. Maine voters, for instance, will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting, a system in which people select their first, second, and third choices for each office. This reform would make it easier for third parties to gain support and would provide a better sense of the electorate’s overall preferences.”

  • Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine’s First Congressional District declares her support of ranked choice voting in a special to the Portland Press Herald: “Maine hasn’t elected a governor to a first term with majority support since 1966. That’s because our current voting method, 'winner take all,' was not designed to accommodate races with more than two candidates, which have been common in our state for over 40 years. This is problematic for our state because the way we vote now often denies governors a mandate to lead; officials elected with votes totaling less than a majority often are delegitimized by the majority of voters who did not choose them; and legislative leadership may question their authority. Simply put, the will of the people is not clear when our state’s governor, or any other officeholder, can get elected with less than 40 percent of the vote.”

  • Kelly Stewart, a select board member from Sumner, and John Cleveland, a former mayor of Augusta and state senator, endorse Question 5 in a column for the Sun Journal: “Seventy-three thousand Maine citizens signed petitions circulated by volunteers to place Question 5 on the ballot. That's because Mainers understand our system is broken, and we'll be better off as a state when voters have more voice and when a majority elect our leaders. We hope others will join us in voting yes on Question 5.”

  • FairVote Board Member Michael Lind authors a post for Drexel University’s The Smart Set blog, explaining how Maine can take the lead in a national reform movement: "On November 8, by making theirs the first state in the Union to adopt ranked choice voting at the state level, voters in Maine can strike a blow for civility, viewpoint diversity, and truly representative democracy in American politics, instead of negative campaigning, character assassination, and gridlock. As Maine goes, so goes the nation — if we are lucky."
  • FairVote Board Chair Krist Novoselic speaks at TEDx MidAtlantic about the need for electoral reform: “I don’t want to have wasted votes anymore. I want to have a powerful vote. I want to have a potent vote. That’s why we need to have meaningful election reform in the United States. The status quo is failing us, and it’s as plain as day. We see it in this election, we’ve seen it in other elections and we see all the negative campaigning. With ranked choice voting, studies show there’s less negative campaigning. So, it’s time for a representative democracy. Let’s get rid of our top down politics, and let’s build a bottom up democracy.”
  • Rolling Stone spreads the word about FairVote Board Chair Krist Novoselic’s actions regarding electoral reform: “In anticipation of Election Day next month, the bassist has been campaigning to raise awareness for ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to select several candidates and would even the playing field with third-party and independent candidates. Several U.S. cities, including Minneapolis; Portland, Maine; and the Bay Area, have implemented the practice. The state of Maine has a measure on its ballot, which, if passed, would establish ranked-choice voting as the state's system for electing candidates running for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate and State Representative.”

  • Pedro Hernandez, Deputy Director of FairVote California, addresses misconceptions about ranked choice voting in an op-ed for Berkleyside: “Voters need to be aware that ranking candidates gives them more power — if your first choice loses, your second or third choice can still determine who wins, and this is not an unintended consequence.”
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