Voices & Choices

Ranked choice voting: a cause for optimism about our democracy

Ranked choice voting: a cause for optimism about our democracy

Yascha Mounk is a political scientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the crisis of liberal democracy and the rise of populism. He’s a lecturer on Government at Harvard University, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America and the executive director at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. His latest book is "The People vs. Democracy: Why our freedom is in danger and how to save it" from Harvard University Press.

Following Maine’s recent historic first use of ranked choice voting for its statewide primary, Mounk published an article for Slate that called the election “a rare cause for optimism about our democracy."

FairVote's Rich Robinson and Ruben Lebron spoke with Mounk about Maine, the problems with first-past-the-post electoral systems and what we should be doing to get young Americans thinking about how important democracy is in their lives. The following is a brief excerpt from that interview, which was edited for clarity.

Robinson: What is it about Maine's first statewide use of ranked choice voting that was remarkable to you?

Mounk: Well first of all, it's just remarkable because we haven't seen the introduction of ranked choice voting in many cases in the United States, so it's just one of the first places in which it has come to be the case at the state level. And secondly it's been remarkable because you see an incredible pushback against it by the political establishment in the state. That's obviously true of the governor but also of a lot of legislators including, from what I understand, some Democrats.

And so the ability of folks like you, but also ordinary voters, to understand the need for this reform and come out and vote down the legislature because they really wanted it, is a hopeful sign that citizens care about what their democratic institutions look like. They can get their head around relatively complex issues like the advantages and disadvantages of different voting systems, and they are willing to make some sensible institutional changes when needed. So all of that is quite inspiring.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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