In a recent article shared by the Independent Voter Network, Andrew Gripp details one of the most enduring problems in politics today: intentional voter absenteeism. More and more citizens, Gripp contends, are becoming so frustrated with the lack of options they see in the polls that they choose to refrain from voting entirely. Disappointment with politics in general and a lack of choices at the polls is pervasive across the country.
The problem isn’t the politicians, it’s the way we vote for them. If only two candidates run, the winner will absolutely have to achieve a majority to win, but voters won’t have much real choice at the polls. Many will feel like they have to choose between the lesser of two evils, and won’t have the chance to support a candidate that really represents them. However, if more than two candidates run, voters get the real choices they deserve at the polls, but sacrifice the likelihood of results grounded in majority rule. Instead, the winning candidate would likely gain only a plurality of support--that is, the most votes, rather than a majority of votes. In this scenario, Gripp legitimately wonders how strong a mandate our political leaders can really claim under our current system plagued by such strong voter apathy. Candidates will often win by “acquiring only one fifth of the popular vote,” especially if there are multiple candidates running and considering the number of voters that choose not to participate. The bottom line is that voters don’t have many choices at the polls, and the prospect of more choice would mean that elected officials could win without a strong majority and mandate to lead.
Meaningful electoral reform is the answer. With ranked choice voting, voters can have both majority winners and greater choices. Cities across the country, including San Francisco, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, have adopted ranked choice voting to empower their citizens at the polls. Voters in these cities can vote their conscience without having to worry about their favorite candidate playing the role of “spoiler.” Their elections see more voices participating in the political process while still preserving the principle of majority outcomes. Ranked choice voting has the potential to bring voters back into the political process with real choices--something we all deserve in every election.
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