Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Maine Adopts Ranked Choice Voting

Cato Institute takes a look at Maine's recent passage of an initiative allowing Ranked Choice Voting for state offices. I'm not sure but I think this is the same as Instant Runoff Voting where candidates are ranked in order of preference by voters:

"If a candidate wins more than half the votes, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. If no candidate has more than half the votes, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The votes of those who selected the defeated candidate as a first choice are then added to the totals of their next choice. This process continues until the number of candidates is reduced to two or the winner earns more than half of the active votes."

I still get a little confused with how that works, but it does and, as the article points out, some cities already use them in municipal elections.

I'd prefer to vote that way but I'm not sure I could be labeled a RCV supporter. Proponents often point to the system allowing majorities to still have their way and voters needn't be as concerned with "wasting their vote" as often is a concern with the system most of us use now.

I'm not so sure that's a good idea. I used to be very supportive of RCV until it occurred to me it likely would lead to majorities getting even more power. In an area predominantly conservative or liberal, the ranking choices would likely lean strongly conservative or liberal from the first choice on down. That would seem to me to ensure the majority mindset would always be favored and likely the more extreme conservatives and liberals would prevail.

Some think that's a good thing and the way it should be. I don't. I figure government runs best when it's divided and a certain line of thought doesn't go unchallenged. It would seem to me less likely that would happen with RCV/ IRV.

The City of San Francisco uses RCV in their local elections so we might look there to see if my concerns hold water, except San Francisco has always been a largely authoritarian city. I suspect we'd see their elections resulting in authoritarians winning now just as they always have. From what little I've heard of their elections that seems to be true.

One good thing I'll agree with in regards RCV/IRV is we might not hear so much anymore about "wasting your vote". That would be nice.


At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Bushytails said...

Extreme opinions don't alter the outcome any more than extreme opinions currently do - each person still gets one and exactly one vote, of equal weight.

If an area is predominately conservative or liberal, the outcome will still be a conservative or liberal candidate, respectively. A voting system where that wasn't the case would be broken - although all voting systems can end up that way in certain edge cases.

What IRV/RCV/STV does is remove the penalty for supporting a candidate you think is less likely to win. With our current system, rather than voting for you who'd like to win, you have to vote for the person you think has the best chance of winning - doing otherwise is, at best, throwing your vote away, and at worst, actually supporting your opponents. Every vote for Johnson is a vote for , etc.

With RCV, you can rank the candidates in order of whom you'd most like to win, with no penalty for voting honestly. It also reduces the need for primaries, and parties can run multiple candidates - with the current system, running two candidates guarantees neither wins, as the votes would be split between them.

With RCV, you could say that your first choice is McAfee, your second choice Johnson, your third choice Sanders, your fourth choice Trump, and your fifth choice Clinton. I'll just use those five for this example as not to make it overly complicated. During the first round, if any of those candidates have more than 50% of the vote, they win. But let's say that's not the case. After all the votes are counted, let's say McAfee has the fewest votes. D'oh! Your first choice lost horribly. With the current system, you'd have just thrown your vote away, and helped all the candidates you hated most. But with RCV, instead McAfee is eliminated from the running, and the votes tallied again. Since your first choice was eliminated, your vote is now transferred to Johnson. Other people who voted for McAfee as their first choice have their votes transferred to whomever they voted for second. Now your vote means something. But, sadly, Johnson doesn't win either, and now that McAfee is out of the running, Johnson has the fewest votes. He's eliminated next. Your vote gets transferred to Sanders. Anyone who had Johnson as their first choice, or their second choice after McAfee, gets their vote transferred to their next ranking. Your vote still counts, and even though neither of the candidates you really wanted to win have won, you still have influence over the outcome of the election. But, let's say Sanders now has the fewest votes, since between the two Democratic candidates, more people ranked Clinton higher on their list than they ranked Sanders. Your vote gets transferred to Trump. Democrats who picked Sanders then Clinton as their first choices have their vote transferred to Clinton - the vote isn't split between the two candidates, as all the votes for the one with fewer get transferred to the one with more. Votes and tallied again. Now it's just a two-way race between Trump and Clinton. This time Clinton has more than 50% of the votes, and wins.

Well, that example turned out longer and less clear than I hoped. Oh well. Do your research, and you can find out a lot more about how it works. There's also more complicated versions for filling multiple seats - my example is for just one seat.

RCV is used in a lot of areas, not just SF. It's used in lots of other places in the US. Other countries, such as Australia, use it for almost everything. It results in much fairer elections, with everyone's vote counting, and a whole lot less of the political system-gaming that we're used to here.


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