Letter to the editor: Dispelling the myths of Ranked Choice Voting

Editor, 

There is a lot of misinformation being voiced on the resolution proposed for the Edmonds City Council supporting SHB1556. Allow me to speak on behalf of the resolution and dispel some myths. 

SHB1156, the “Ranked Choice Voting Local Options Bill”, simply allows local jurisdictions the choice to adopt Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) if desired. Under current Washington state law, most cities and counties are prohibited from using RCV. The Edmonds City Council resolution simply supports a bill that would give Edmonds more local control and doesn’t force Edmonds to adopt RCV. Many other cities and counties in Washington have already passed resolutions in support of this bill.  

On RCV itself, there are many studies examining the positive impact of RCV where adopted, some of the primary benefits are: (detailed articles https://tinyurl.com/FVWBENEFITS & https://tinyurl.com/RCVWA)   

1.       More Choices, Stronger Voices: RCV makes your vote more powerful. You can pick your favorite candidate first without worrying about throwing your vote away on someone that won’t win. And more candidates are encouraged to run since they don’t need to fear becoming a “spoiler.” 

2.       Issue-focused Campaigns With More Civility: With RCV, candidates are motivated to run positive, issue-focused campaigns and to reach out to all voters. If they can’t be your first choice, they’ll still want to be your second or third choice. 

3.       Equitable Representation:  RCV can ensure that elected officials better reflect the communities they serve and that voters feel represented by their officials. 

Support for the local options bill is about enabling local choice, not forcing adoption. Edmonds is a great town that embraces diversity and choice, please consider reaching out to Edmonds City Council representatives backing the resolution supporting SHB1156.

FairVote Washington has a rich collection of additional resources and research for those who want to learn more at fairvotewa.org 

Thanks

Eric Bidstrup
Edmonds

8 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Dispelling the myths of Ranked Choice Voting”

  1. Eric makes good points in support of Ranked Choice Voting and the enabling bill (SHB1156) now before the Legislature. But RCV is a new voting concept here in Washington state, and it’s going to take some extended civic conversation before it’s broadly understood by voters.

    Let me add a couple points~ RCV is totally one person, one vote, in line with American voting tradition. No matter how many choices a voter might make in a given political race, they still have only one vote, and that vote gets counted only once and for only one candidate.

    When properly implemented, RCV eliminates the need for a primary election. No more mid-summer elections when voters minds are less focused on politics. With only one voting day to campaign towards instead of two, candidates don’t need to raise and spend so much money.

    Like Eric said, the issue before Council is not adopting RCV for Edmonds, rather it’s expressing support for a bill that would *allow* cities like Edmonds (and other local jurisdictions like school boards) to choose RCV for their local elections. SHB1156 is enabling legislation only; it doesn’t impose RCV on anybody.

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  2. Indeed. Ireland has used RCV for over 100 years and they are one of the top 10 strongest democracies in the world. In Ireland, they call it the “single transferable vote.” That’s a great description – it’s one person, one vote and If your favorite candidate is eliminated, then your vote is transferred to your second choice. Onward!

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  3. What are the disadvantages of ranked-choice voting?
    Opponents of ranked-choice voting contend that it is not a democratic approach and that it won’t solve election problems. They say it will, in fact, create more of them. “Ranked-choice voting is the flavor of the day. And it will turn out to have a bitter taste,” according to Gordon Weil, a former Maine state agency head and municipal selectman, writing in 2015 when voters in that state were mulling the system’s adoption. “Its advocates want to replace real democracy, in which a majority picks the winner, with something akin to a game show method of selection. The result could be more like Family Feud than a decision about one of the most important choices people can make.”

    In a 2016 essay in Democracy, Simon Waxman argues that RCV doesn’t actually lead to a candidate who represents the majority of voters. Also, an easily exhausted electorate doesn’t always rank all the candidates on a ballot, according to a 2014 paper in the journal Electoral Studies that looked at ballots from 600,000 voters in California and Washington counties. As a result, some voters end up with their ballots eliminated and no say in the final outcome.

    Say there were five names on a ballot and you only ranked three, who were all eliminated, your now-blank ballot wouldn’t be counted in the final vote at all. You will not have expressed any choice about the two leading candidates.

    Waxman contends that RCV is not a “solution.” It may just be another complication, and of that we should be wary. He writes, “[T]here are reasons for skepticism when it comes to RCV—and not just RCV itself, but the larger notion that what is broken in American politics, and therefore what will fix it, is procedure.”

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  4. No. What we need is to eliminate the top two system. There should always be a Republican and not only democrats on the ticket. So un-American.

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  5. Ms Hall,

    Correction:

    With Ranked Choice Voting, the goal IS to have one candidate win the majority of the votes. Is that not what “democracy” is about?

    The votes from the candidate with the least votes are redistributed to the voters’ next choice – until a clear majority is achieved.

    In the example given, note the language used to mislead:
    – “You will not have expressed any choice about the two leading candidates.”

    “The Two Leading candidates”

    Is not the purpose of the election to vote for someone to hold the office? Why would I care about choosing between “the two leading candidates.”???

    Ranked Choice Voting allows me the freedom to vote for my choice among all of the candidates, not just “the two leading candidates” of whom I may not want either.

    With the current system, in many races, especially at the higher levels of government, not voting for a Democrat or Republican is considered a wasted vote.

    With Ranked Choice Voting I will have been free to choose and have chosen – 3 times – with only 1 vote – in The Race for the office! Not for “the two leading candidates.”

    Is that not the heart of the matter?

    Also re: Waxman contends that RCV is not a “solution.”

    Not a “solution” to/for exactly – what???

    The current divisiveness in the country with our binary system controlled by the 2 party leaders?

    Of course, I can understand why lobbyists and strong members of the 2 parties would oppose the competition.

    Also, Ms Hall, please give the links to the documents referred to. Thank you.

    If there are any questions, please show up at a (currently virtual) meeting of Fair Vote Wa – and ask, or at least look at the website and understand for yourself what it is.

    Mr Bidstrup gave several links for your perusal.

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  6. RCV in what are supposed to be non-partisan elections like our City Council, School Boards and the various Districts make a lot of sense to me. This would eliminate expensive run off elections for relatively minor offices. I’m still a little dubious about using it in highly partisan national and state elections.

    If RCV would help break down the gridlock associated with our two party system at the national level, it might be good to make it part of the democratic experiment at least on a trial basis. We desperately need to get rid of the Electoral College, Gerrymandering of all stripes and the assumed filibuster as opposed to a real filibuster where senators debate as long as they can to prevent a floor vote. If it could somehow promote “ideas” as opposed to “ideologies” from ruling our politics I’d be all for RCV.

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    1. Clinton, I think that’s exactly what those of us who advocate for RCV hope it will do. In what are currently highly partisan elections, we’re often told “you have to vote for candidate X, because if you don’t candidate Y will win” (Nevermind, that you don’t particularly love candidate X, your preferred candidate Z has no real chance anyway). The structure we currently have promotes a race to the bottom and creates deeper partisan divides.

      RCV holds the promise of creating a more broad competition of ideas. No longer can a major party candidate just dismiss ideas out of hand that come from sources other than the other major party by saying “if you vote for them, you are just throwing away your vote.” RCV has the potential to begin breaking down not only the deep partisan divide we have but also the power that those party elites wield to keep new ideas off of the table.

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