With three states down and 15 set to vote in the next week, one thing about the Democratic Party’s eight-candidate-strong primary is clear: the field is still fractured.
Although Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appears to be emerging as a frontrunner, FiveThirtyEight predicts no candidate will accrue a majority of delegates before Democrats convene in Milwaukee to select a nominee. That leaves the possibility that a candidate whom the majority of the Democratic Party electorate did not vote for can win the nomination—a scenario that threatens to exacerbate rancor in a party still dealing with the fallout from a contentious 2016 primary.
It is clear, then, that the current primary process is flawed—but a full-page editorial by The New York Times illuminates a better way to conduct the process: ranked choice voting (RCV).
The Times first endorsed RCV in 2018, supported the Fair Representation Act that fall, and was a strong backer of New York City adopting RCV in 2019—when voters agreed with 73 percent of the vote. This new piece, titled “The Primaries Are Just Dumb,” extols the virtues of RCV as a way to fairly winnow presidential primary fields, promote civility between candidates, and ensure that whomever eventually wins a party’s nomination has the support of the majority of its electorate.
According to the editorial, RCV is “a popular and proven way of electing leaders who are — what a radical notion! — actually supported by most voters. It is effective in any multicandidate race, but it’s ideal for making sense of a large and fractured pool of candidates.”
Pointing to the four states—Hawaii, Alaska, Kansas, and Wyoming—that will be conducting RCV primaries in upcoming weeks, the editorial asks readers to imagine a hypothetical Wyoming voter who likes Elizabeth Warren but does not want to “waste” his vote. With the new RCV rules in place, he won’t have to. He can vote for Warren in good conscience, knowing that his voice will still be heard through his second choice.
That is one of the reasons that, according to the editorial, “Polls consistently show high voter satisfaction with ranked-choice voting.”
The Times’ leadership is part of growing recognition that our presidential nomination system is particularly broken. Reformers have a growing team of allies as we prepare for changes before the next primary season in 2024.