Maine is conducting a referendum on “ranked choice voting” (RCV, see www.rcvmaine.com), a system similar in at least in spirit to how Cambridge conducts municipal elections. I realize this method of voting can be confusing for voters, but it really is one of the fairest ways to tally votes. It gives more candidates and parties a shot at being elected. I don’t think most politicians favor RCV, especially not incumbents, but that’s no reason not to have a discussion about it.
Will, what is your take?
Updated Response from Will, January 2017
After reflection, I have elected to cosponsor this legislation in the 2017-8 session. It raises a reasonable proposition that might improve our democracy.
Updated Response from Will, April 2018
Unfortunately, this bill has been placed in study and is not likely to passed in this session. However, I remain interested and hope that we can get it going next time around. Bold new ideas often take several sessions to get moving.
I’m open to changes in the way we elect candidates. I’ve also been interested in California’s approach — going to a preliminary/runoff model away from a primary/general model.
I think the goal in elections to Congress should be to produce a functioning body — less polarized,so the preliminary/runoff model is attractive to that end.
I’m not sure how the RCV model would change outcomes and would welcome more thoughts on it. I’m generally adverse to complexity, we do need to keep things understandable, but other than that, I’m not sure I have reactions to RCV.
A few points worth making:
Though the referendum in Maine would make it the first state to use RCV for state and federal office, there are already 11 cities using RCV (including Cambridge) for local elections.
Research shows that voters in RCV elections have a thorough understanding of how these elections work. Over 99% of voters cast ballots in the 24 RCV contests sampled in one study and surveys show that more California voters comprehensively understand RCV than the Top 2 system you cited, which does not appear to be a panacea in California.
FairVote’s plan for Congress would use multi-winner RCV to give every American a chance to vote for someone who represents them regardless of where they live, and reduce polarization. We expect to have a bill to this effect introduced in the coming months.
Finally, Massachusetts has had a few bills introduced in the House to use RCV for primary and general elections for state offices.
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