| Rob Richie | MSN |
Ranked choice voting enables more and better choices for voters. Minor-party candidates — or less well-known candidates in primaries or nonpartisan races — are able to run without fear of being blamed for hurting similar candidates. After all, if they can’t win, voters who supported them will simply have their votes count for a backup choice.
The “spoiler problem” — and the parties’ work to exploit it — is not a new phenomenon. Look to North Carolina, where, earlier this year, the state Democratic Party sued (unsuccessfully) to keep a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate off the ballot. In Florida, a Republican politico in 2020 took chicanery to a criminal extreme, paying a person named Alex Rodriguez to enter the race against Democratic state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, with the goal of confusing voters and siphoning off votes. It worked, mostly. Jose Rodriguez lost. Alex Rodriguez accepted prosecutors’ plea deal and is on probation; the plan’s alleged mastermind awaits trial.
Of course, this is all compounded by the fact that so few elections are competitive. Only about 40 U.S. House seats were true toss-ups this November. Presidential elections today come down to a few swing states where minor party and independent candidates such as Ralph Nader or Gary Johnson can determine who wins the White House. When so much relies on so few races, it’s no surprise that party operatives take a “win at any cost” approach — even when that cost may be unsavory tactics antithetical to our principles.
Better choices and better campaigns
Addressing this lack of competition will require comprehensive reform, as will lowering the temperature of our polarized politics. And yet, ranked choice voting is an improvement being adopted across the nation — it’s now in 63 cities, counties and states where 500-plus elections show that voters understand it, like it, and take advantage of the freedom to rank their choices. This past Election Day, eight places, including Nevada and cities from Fort Collins, Colo., to Seattle, voted to use it in their elections.
Ranked choice voting can help fix our broken elections. It’s a path away from false flags and dirty tricks, and toward better choices and better campaigns. It’s a path we should take.
Rob Richie is president and CEO of FairVote, a nonpartisan organization seeking better elections for all.