Larry Bradley’s Ezine #412 Why Do We Need Ranked Choice Voting?

Weekly Ezine Number 412

What Is Happening with Election Reform?

Would You Help Make Ranked Choice Voting a Reality?

What Is Happening with Election Reform?

–We’re not doing a paragraph one this time so we can focus you on paragraph two.  

Why Do We Need Ranked Choice Voting?

This Ezine has two purposes. First, to better explain why we need Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Second (inspired by Max Skidmore’s letter to the editor) is to provide a clear example of the futility under our current system of casting your vote for President of the United States for someone other than the nominee of the Democratic or Republican Parties. We do so in hopes of providing a tool for you to inform others of the limitations of our current system and to generate interest in changing that limited system.

Why do we need Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)? We need RCV because RCV will enable voters to put in place negotiated settlements in our politics. RCV will enable us to achieve something close to peace in our government’s functioning and policies that the majority will be accepting of over the long term. So, how does that happen?

Imagine for a moment there was some sort of measuring scale that ranked the governing style of candidates and political parties. That scale assigns a score to those candidates and parties between zero and 100. For the sake of illustration, let’s say that 60% of voters want candidates and parties with a score of 45 or less. Let’s also say 40% of voters want candidates and parties with a score of 55 or better. That would be especially true in either case for a Presidential candidate. Let’s use those assumed facts for the following discussion of what happens when we hold elections using a Winner Takes All (WTA) ballot.

For the 40% of voters who want a score of 55 or better, our illustration makes their choice simple. There is only one party and its candidates who offer voters a government operated with a 55 or greater approach. Voters wanting a 55 or greater government will vote for the 55 or greater party and its candidates (Let’s call it Party A). So, out of 1,000 voters, 400 will vote for the 55 or greater Party, Party A. Now, to be clear, there are divisions and disagreements within Party A. Those disagreements are put away, however, by the members’ agreement to deliver a unified vote for its candidates.  

For the 60% of voters who want a score of 45 or less, voting is more complicated. That’s because in our illustration there is one party and its candidates who offer a score of 40, but that only appeals to a portion of the remaining voters. Again, for illustration’s sake, let’s say 350 out of the 600 who want 45 or less will vote for Party B, which advocates for a score of 40.

This leaves 250 voters who want a Party and Candidates who will govern with a score of (again, for illustrative purposes) of 25. Those voters are Party C voters. For those voters, a score of 40 (even though its well below the other party’s score of 55) is not good enough to vote for. For Party C members, Party B is much too much like Party A and should therefore be shunned.

So what happens when we have an election using a winner take all ballot? Party A gets 400 votes, Party B gets 350 votes and Party C gets 175 votes. (Now, the alert among you reading this are quickly going to say, “That doesn’t add up to 1,000!” That’s because 75 Party C members decided that if they couldn’t win, then they would just stay home and not vote. A foolish and immature decision, as demonstrated by the results.) As a result, Party A, with overall 40% of the vote defeats the 60% who wanted to be governed by a 45 or less philosophy. The winner represents the minority, so the majority has to live under policies the majority does not want. Welcome to the real world too many voters in the voting public don’t seem to appreciate. If this result angers you, then we suggest you join us in our efforts to change to a system that will not allow such a result. The prime change we advocate for is, of course, RCV.

If RCV were in place, then the likely scenario would be this. Party B and C members, knowing the reality they face, would vote strategically to keep Party A from winning. In the first round of voting, Party A gets 400 votes, Party B gets 350 votes and Party C gets 200 votes (fewer of Party C voters stayed home). Party C’s candidate is defeated. Logically, to keep Party A from winning, Party C voters would make their second choice Party B. Party C voters would recognize that being governed by a philosophy score of 40 is far preferable to being governed by a philosophy score of 55 (which is likely to drift to an even larger number.)

So, by using RCV, Party B combines with Party C voters to defeat Party A in the second round, 550 votes to 400. Even with 50 Party C voters abstaining, Party B wins the election with a decisive majority. Voters in the example have sent a clear message of which philosophy they prefer to be governed with, especially with the office of President. The majority are going to have in place a President/an election result those voters can be satisfied with. Did all of them get absolutely everything they wanted? No, but getting absolutely everything they want is something rational adults have long since realized is unattainable. Rational adults value the teaching of Jim Rohn in such matters. Jim always taught that you should, “Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all you want.”

To Party A members in this example, our message is this. The voters have spoken. The winners’ policies will be tried. If those policies fail, then you will have an opportunity in the next election to make your case, bring more voters to your side and win. That’s the nature of political life. In all life, be it political or economic, what makes life better is competition on a level playing field. Just remember, some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you.

There are other nuances worth detailing from this example. We’ll talk about those later.  

See you next time.



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  1. […] Our last Ezine described the ills of the ballot we use now, especially in the Presidential election. That ballot forces us to choose between the lesser of two evils instead of enabling us to have a variety of choices and a process that lets us find the choice the majority of voters can agree with. […]

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