Freakonomics has one of the nation's most popular podcasts. This week they featured electoral reform, asking a series of leaders and experts what single change they would most like to make. I encourage you to listen to the show and read the transcript.
Former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean zeroes in on ranked choice voting, as Mainers have the opportunity to adopt for their major elections this November. Here's an excerpt:
"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. That is, if there’s ten candidates in a race, you get one vote.
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 you get to rank them. So that if your candidate doesn’t win, your second-choice vote counts. What that does is create as the winner, the person who is best respected and best liked overall in the electorate. It’s just a good system.
.. 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."
I explain how ranked choice voting could work in multi-winner districts to empower voters when electing legislatures, saying:
"I’d like to get rid of winner-take-all elections to elect Congress, state legislatures, and city councils. So whoever gets 51 percent of the vote represents 100 percent of people. If you get 60 percent of the vote you not only represent 100 percent of people, but no one even cares about the election, because you’re going to win easily. And we’re left with elections that leave most people stuck in lopsided one-party districts.
The Fair Representation Act is a statutory change that within states, would take congressional elections from having only one person per area, to bigger areas with more than one person. A state like Massachusetts might go from nine one-winner districts to three three-member districts, and then in each district, it would take about a third of the vote to win a seat. That degree of opening up the system does really interesting things. It makes the general election matter and it very methodically and reliably represents the left, center, and right of every district."
Ranked choice voting is drawing more and more attention and support from across the spectrum. Prominent columnists Peter Roff and Ramesh Ponnuru are among those who recently backed ranked choice voting from the ideological right.
This week Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and former NAACP president Ben Jealous appeared on Democracy Now. They disagreed on how to vote this November, but strongly agreed on turning the lose-lose proposition of our current voting rules to the win-win solution of ranked choice voting.
Stein said "We could, in fact, enact ranked choice voting right now in any legislature across the state, that would take the fear out of voting." Jealous said, "I’m all for ranked choice voting, so let’s have that national campaign."
There's no better way to make that campaign real than helping Mainers' campaign for Question 5 which would elevate voters' voices and choices for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and state legislature. Polls show the measure winning, and the campaign is doing great work securing support and getting out the message. Visit the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting website today on how you can help.
P.S. We've had a wonderful summer intern team. Learn more about them on our blog, and a special thanks to departing democracy fellows Molly Rockett and Demarquin Johnson, both of whom are heading to Harvard Law School after a year at FairVote. See their final report for us; a comprehensive analysis of voter turnout in the 2016 presidential primary season.