| Larry Williams | Baltimore Sun |
A multitude of recent opinion pieces reflect the concerns we have about the ability of our elections to accurately represent public choices. Charges of election fraud and electoral manipulation abound. There is the fear that state legislatures will overrule the popular vote. Baseless conspiracy theories have been pushed and accepted by a large portion of the population. Politicians foster fear of the opposition rather than offering their vision for the future. Disaster is prophesied should the opposing party gain power.
Adopting these process changes would increase public faith in the system…
Rank-order voting permits a voter’s second or third choice to be considered in an election until a candidate gains 50% plus 1 of the total votes cast. Consider the last Baltimore City mayoral race where the current Democratic mayor received 29.6% of the votes in the Democratic primary. In a city where the Democratic primary winner is all but assured of winning the general election, 70.4% of Democrats voted for someone else. The Republican primary only mustered 5,608 total mayoral votes (less than 4% of the primary votes for that office).
Rank-order voting would be a boon to third party candidates, who would arguably make a stronger showing if voters knew that voting for them as a “first choice” (or any lesser choice) didn’t mean that they were wasting their vote. Perhaps a chance to vote for whom you want instead of the lesser of evils would let candidates know how the voters really feel.
I have seen claims that the rank-order system and open primaries would be unlikely to change final election results. I’m skeptical. However, even if outcomes did not change, adopting these process changes would increase public faith in the system and would invite greater participation in primaries. To my mind, that is enough to justify doing it.
Larry Williams ( ) is a retired Architect living in Towson. He is a registered Democrat.