Voices & Choices

Harvard Business School report highlights ranked choice voting among reforms

Harvard Business School report highlights ranked choice voting among reforms

The new Harvard Business School report “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America” is a fresh take on reforming our politics and worthy of serious consideration by activists, elected officials and the public at large. Authors Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter point out (correctly, we believe) that our nation’s troubled politics are not due to a single cause – say, polarization – “but rather to a failure of the nature of political competition that has been created.”

To better understand this dynamic, Gehl (business leader, former CEO) and Porter (economist, Harvard Business School professor) scrutinize our political system through the lens of industry competition, a manner of study that has long been used to understand competition and performance in conventional industries. They see over the past several decades that politics in America has essentially become a major industry in and of itself, so by thinking about political problems in the context of competition, their report sheds new light on the structural challenges that plague American politics.

They see the political system as a private industry that sets its own rules. Minus regulation and oversight, the duopoly it has created avoids compromise, divides voters and actually spurs citizens to vote based on anger and fear. There are no incentives to solve problems nor is there any accountability for results. Worse, currently there are no interruptive systems in place that could restore healthy competition.

Sounds hopeless, right? Perhaps not. Gehl and Porter also offer a strategy for reform, which offers structural change that could repair political competition in America. One of the recommendations is the restructure of the election process and an important portion of that is the adoption of ranked choice voting, noting the “system will ensure that no candidate is elected with less than majority support, resulting in the election of candidates with the broadest appeal to the most voters.”

Other aspects of the authors’ recommendations to restructure the election process include establishing nonpartisan “top-four” primaries, essentially a single primary ballot for all candidates regardless of party affiliation, open to all voters, not just registered party voters; linking to FairVote’s top four primary resources, the authors recognize that expanding choice beyond two goes with with RCV.

Other featured recommendations are to institute nonpartisan redistricting; rewrite debate access rules for presidential elections to make them accessible to more than just the major party candidates; diminish money’s influence in politics (that includes reducing “the attractive return on investment that donors currently enjoy”) and open up competition without waiting for structural reform. A deeper look into the report will reveal all the fascinating details, and is highly recommended

Gehl and Porter note “It is up to us as citizens to recapture our democracy – it will not be self-correcting.” This is not exactly an understatement. Right now, our troubled politics is much like the weather, in that everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Hopefully, this report will help change that narrative.

One thing we’re certain of, is that if our elections were conducted with ranked choice voting, the voice of the voter would be stronger, the campaigns would be more civil and the candidates elected would be the kind of leaders who would not bristle at the thought of working across the aisle for the best interests of the American people.


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