You’ll often hear people say that voting for a third-party candidate is a waste of a vote, or they’ll worry that the third-party candidate will be a spoiler.
And these fears are absolutely valid in our current first-past-the-post voting.
This means that people are often picking between two candidates they dislike in order to choose the “lesser of two evils.”
This is our current plurality voting system. Where whoever gets the highest number of votes, rather than the majority, wins. This means that in many elections candidates win with well under 50% of support from the voters.
There are a variety of voting methods, such as Ranked-Choice, Approval, Final Five, and STAR, all of which provide voters with greater choice and minimize the spoiler effect. We support all reforms that move away from plurality voting towards methods that reflect the majority voice of the voters. We lead with Ranked-Choice Voting.
Ranked-Choice Voting is simple – you rank the candidates in order of preference. You do not have to rank them all – if you only like 2 candidates, you can make just a 1st and a 2nd choice. And, just as in our current system, if a candidate gets over 50% of voters’ 1st choice, then that candidate wins, which makes sense.
However, say there’s a three-person election where no candidate is 50% of voters’ 1st choice. That’s where Ranked-Choice Voting kicks in. There’s no need to have a separate runoff election, as Ranked-Choice Voting allows voters to express, right on their ballot, who they would vote for in that second election. This is why Ranked-Choice Voting (or, at least, one variety of it) is sometimes referred to as Instant Runoff Voting.
In a Ranked-Choice Voting system, if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the least popular candidate – the one who was ranked 1st by the fewest people - is eliminated from the election. Instead of throwing out those voters’ ballots, however, election officials look to see who they ranked 2nd. The totals are then recounted, and if these votes push a candidate over 50%, then they win. Otherwise, the process repeats until someone does get over 50% of the votes.
The benefits of ranked-choice voting are profound:
- Candidates aren’t spoilers, and if they don’t receive enough support, their votes go to a candidate who is still in contention.
- Voters who align more with third-party candidates can express their preferences without worrying about wasting their vote.
- The winner needs to build a broad base of support with a diverse coalition representing at least 50% of the electorate.
- It provides a reason to avoid negative campaigning, as attacking a candidate might alienate a voter who would otherwise rank you 2nd or 3rd.
Ranked-Choice Voting has been adopted in over a dozen cities and several states in the last several years, and the results are promising. Voters overwhelmingly support the continued use of the system, and studies have shown that candidates focused less on attacks and more on the issues.
Problems to be Solved:
Our current system allows a candidate to win with less than 50% support among voters.
Voters can’t express their opinions, feeling locked into one of the two major-party candidates.
Candidates launch negative attacks against each other and are more focused on firing up their base than building a coalition of support.
- Adopt Ranked-Choice Voting in all elections, including primaries.
- Couple this reform with Nonpartisan Primaries to best reflect the will of the voters.
If this sounds like the future you want to build for America, consider donating today!