The New York Times editorial board recently published an editorial in support of ranked choice voting. It’s very-much worth a read…
By the Editorial Board
This is part of a series on voting in America.
What if we’ve been electing our politicians the wrong way this whole time?
Voters in Maine will tackle that question on Tuesday, when the state holds its primaries using a radical yet sensible electoral reform that could fundamentally change how campaigns are run and who ends up winning. It will be the first time the method — known as ranked-choice, or instant-runoff, voting — is used in a statewide election.
The purpose is to ensure that officials are elected with an outright majority when there are three or more candidates, and to elevate those with the widest appeal. It works like this: Rather than checking a box for just one candidate, voters rank all candidates in order of preference. If a candidate earns a majority of the votes, he or she wins. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and his or her ballots get redistributed to whomever those voters ranked second. If another round is needed, the process continues, eliminating the candidate with the next fewest votes, until one candidate has a majority.
It may sound complicated, but it works smoothly in countries from Australia to Ireland to New Zealand. More than a dozen American cities have adopted ranked-choice voting, including San Francisco; Minneapolis; St. Paul; and Santa Fe, N.M. Nearly everywhere it’s in use, voters and candidates say they’re happier with it.
This is probably because it encourages candidates to reach out to as many voters as possible, which ranked-choice advocates say generates more moderate politicians and policies that more accurately reflect what most people want. Aiming for broad appeal also results in more positive and substantive campaigns, they say, because candidates don’t want to risk attacking their opponents and turning off voters who might be willing to list them as a second or third choice.