Voices & Choices

Don’t blame the spoiler; fix the system

Don’t blame the spoiler; fix the system

Casting independent and third-party candidates as spoilers isn’t fair.

Even worse? When mounting pressure and vote-splitting predictions force those candidates to drop out.

Three state gubernatorial races now face this exact problem, the first and most significant being Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker pulled the plug on his re-election bid just days before early voting started and well after absentee ballots were sent out. As FairVote Senior Fellow Dave Daley writes in an op-ed for The Hill the decision “could cause chaos” in the now two-way race between the major party nominees.

In the wake of Walker’s resignation, independent gubernatorial candidates in Maine and Oregon have also backed out, endorsing the Democrats in their respective races. While it’s unlikely either of these lesser-known, non incumbents would have impacted results as strongly as Walker - who was polling in the mid-20s, the same as his Democratic competitor - it’s further evidence that our broken system spoils the chance for fair elections and prevents other viewpoints from legitimately competing.

But there is a better way.

As Daley writes,

Our politics need not be limited to two options. We need not worry that expanding choices — something we ordinarily celebrate, with good reason — will lead to victories by more extreme candidates of ether side who capture intense support from a small base.”

Ranked choice voting replaces our spoiled plurality system with a more fair and democratic method, spoiler-free and inclusive to all parties and political positions.

Consider how ranked choice voting could have changed the dynamic in Alaska’s gubernatorial race. Rather than play the spoiler, Walker might have won a second term by securing the most second choice votes from major party supporters. Or perhaps Republican Mike Dunleavy would still claim victory - the outcome Walker feared and hoped to prevent by dropping out - but only if he secured majority support.

And the decision would remain in the hands of voters, not the candidates who “short-circuit” elections by dropping out mid-stream.

Read Daley’s full op-ed here.

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