Reform Roundup: September 30th, 2016

Posted by Avi Steele on September 30, 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.

  • Lee Drutman outlines the case for ranked choice voting in Maine at Vox's "Polyarchy" blog: "Think about it: The single-vote, winner-take-all, zero-sum nature of our current elections encourages candidates to tear each other apart, since voters only can choose one candidate. But if candidates start competing to be voters' second and third choices, they have incentives to play a little nicer with each other so as to not alienate potential supporters. You can imagine candidates saying, "Vote for me, but also pick this person second." Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges explains this well in this video clip talking about her 2013 election. To the extent that zero-sum negative partisanship has become a debilitating force in our politics, electoral rules that promote civility could have a big change."

  • Polling by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram shows that Maine voters are open to change in the form of ranked choice voting: “The switch would make Maine the first state to adopt the system, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing a single candidate for each race come Election Day. The system is used now for Portland’s mayoral and City Council races and has been adopted by other cities in the U.S., but Maine would be the first state to use the system or all statewide elections, including votes for the Legislature, Congress and governor.”
  • UC Irvine law professor Rick Hansen, while being interviewed for the New York Times’s The Upshot, explains why ranked choice voting is the best solution in an election with more than two viable candidates: “I am uncertain whether vote swapping would count as illegal vote buying, One key point is that these kinds of agreements are inherently unenforceable, given the secret ballot. You might tell me you are a Stein supporter in Ohio who would vote for Clinton if I would vote for Stein, but you could be someone sitting in another country, or a Stein supporter in Ohio who still plans to vote for Stein. But the larger point is that people are looking for ways around the fact that we have this odd system, where we make it really easy for third-party candidates to get on the ballot in most places, but almost impossible for them to win. A much more rational solution to this problem would be to adopt instant runoff voting so that a vote for Stein could go to Clinton (or for Gary Johnson could go to Trump) if that’s a voter’s second choice.”
  • Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes writes that ranked choice voting restores civility in politics and majority rule in an Op-Ed for the Sun Journal: “Mainers are proud of their political independence, whether they are part of a party or not. Mainers like having choices. Unfortunately, the current ballot was not designed to handle more than two choices. It no longer reflects how leaders are elected. Ranked Choice Voting is a cost-effective update to the voting system to accommodate that reality. Those reasons are enough for me to vote “Yes” on Question 5; but my real passion for speaking out in support of Ranked Choice Voting stems from my work to improve civility in politics ... Under a Ranked Choice Voting system, campaigns must reach beyond their base, engage more voters in conversations about the issues and ask for first- and second-choice rankings to build a coalition and win with more than 50 percent of the vote. Candidates and their supporters know that negative campaigning can backfire, costing them second choice rankings from voters who like another candidate best, and the election.”
  • FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie and former League of Women Voters of Arizona president Barbara Klein co-write a piece for the Arizona Daily Star in favor of ranked choice voting: “Adopting ranked-choice voting accommodates voter choice in primaries. It’s good for parties, as they are more likely to get a nominee that voters can rally behind. It’s good for voters, as they can always vote for their favorite without fear of “wasting their vote” on a “spoiler.” ...Although sensible for all elections, ranked choice voting has particular appeal for primaries that tend to be crowded with viable candidates. With modern voting machines able to run ranked choice voting elections with straightforward modifications, Arizona lawmakers would be wise to adopt it for future primary elections.”
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