FRAMINGHAM – The two party system has polarized the people of our country and limited our choices of leaders. We are forced to settle for the most broadly “electable” candidate who somewhat aligns with our political/moral beliefs, rather than being able to select candidates who truly represent our priorities, our communities, and our goals. “Electable” often translates to “well-financed,” giving candidates with connections to big donors a substantial advantage.
With Question 2 on the ballot this election, we have a unique opportunity to improve the very root of our democracy: the way we vote. Ranked Choice Voting (“RCV”) gives voters across the political spectrum the freedom to select the candidate who best reflects their values as their first choice, even if they are not a front-runner, by providing the option to select a second choice candidate (and third, fourth, etc. as applicable).
With RCV, if your ideal candidate is eliminated, your vote will go to whomever you view as the next best candidate, as opposed to our current system which creates a “spoiler effect,” where taking away your vote from a more mainstream candidate could tip the scale toward the candidate you think is the worst person for the job. RCV also solves the problem of primary candidates with similar ideologies “splitting the vote” and allowing an opposing ideology to win, even if it is not the most popular among voters.
The advantages of Ranked Choice Voting will allow candidates who are less connected within the major parties, and more third party candidates, to have viable candidacies. This has increased representation by women and people of color in the cities where it has been previously adopted.
Some people worry that Ranked Choice Voting is more confusing than our current system, but we rank things all the time in our daily lives. Has someone ever offered to pick up something for you at Dunkin’, and you’ve responded along the lines of “I’ll take a pumpkin donut if they have any, but if not, I will have a chocolate glazed. If they only have jelly donuts left, no thanks.”? If so, then you are able to understand ranked choice voting (and are able to avoid jelly donuts). With RCV, you can rank as many or as few candidates as you prefer, so you never have to give a vote to a candidate you do not support. Ranked Choice Voting is currently used in a number of US cities including Cambridge, and was rolled out statewide in Maine in 2018.
A poll conducted by the League of Women Voters in Maine after their first election using Ranked Choice Voting in 2018 found that 94% of respondents chose to rank the candidates instead of choosing just one, and over 90% of respondents reflected favorably on the process, saying their experience with RCV was “excellent” (78.8%) or “good” (12.7%).
Some people also worry that it could complicate determining the results of an election, but counting Ranked Choice votes is easily managed with the proper computer programs.
Local election officials will use their existing systems to determine if any candidate wins by receiving a majority in the first round. If not, a state-run central tabulation facility will determine the results in one or more rounds of recalculation based on the ranked choices to ensure the accuracy and security of the process. Hand counting RCV ballots would still be possible if a recount were needed. If there were four candidates in an election, the ballots could be sorted into four piles based on the first choice of each voter.
If no candidate received over 50% of the vote, then the smallest pile would be redistributed to their second choice picks. If still no one had a majority, the next smallest pile would be redistributed between the remaining candidates. Election officials would not have to go back and look at the second choice on every single ballot for every round of redistributing the votes. If most people voted for one of the top two candidates, their ballots would never have to be reviewed for their second or third choice.
Ranked Choice Voting gives us more choice and more voice in our elections. It is easy to use and tally results. Don’t settle for polarization and political insiders. Please turn over your ballot and vote YES on 2!