Opinion: The U.S. Should Use Rank-Choice Voting in Presidential Elections

The 2016 presidential election was possibly the most hyper-partisan, hyper-binary election that our country has seen in centuries. The campaigns our nominees ran were not centered on tangible issues, but rather personality. Their debates were filled slander and arbitrary insults at each opponents’ character instead of their policies. And at the end of it all, even over a year after, half of our country hates the other.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The system of rank-choice voting — ranking each candidate as your first, second and third choice — would ensure that each U.S. president is well liked by (nearly) everyone. After the first choice votes are counted, as long as no candidate holds 51% or more of the vote, the person with the least support would be eliminated from the race and the second choices on those ballots would be counted instead. Here are the reasons why the U.S. should choose to implement rank-choice voting in presidential elections.

The first reason is that this system encourages people to vote for the candidate they actually think will change our country. Under our current system, people are not voting for who they support. Instead, their decision is based upon who they think will win or where they think their vote will have the most impact. With rank-choice voting, if someone supported a less popular candidate, a third-party, for example, they would not be afraid that their vote wouldn’t count on a larger level. Our constitutional rights, including the right to vote, are the bedrock of American democracy. Rank-choice voting will only strengthen that.

This system will also break the two-party hold on the U.S. political system. In any country where there are only two “realistic” party options, it is inevitable that many people will not feel represented in their own government. But with rank-choice voting, considering the fact that there will be more candidates and parties that are considered as “real” options, third-party candidates will have an actual chance at success.

Lastly, this system of voting will encourage a more friendly political climate in the United States. If there is a possibility that voters would pick them as a second choice, candidates are much less likely to lie, spread rumors or cheat during elections. Instead, politicians will try to gain everyone’s support, not just from their niche political party, because every bit of support will strengthen their campaign.

Today, rank choice voting is being used across the country, including Maine, parts of Minnesota and California. An especially current place where RCV is used is in the San Francisco Bay Area: the cities of San Leandro, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have all used this progressive system in local elections.

These elections have been wildly successful in creating more popular and diverse city governments. Berkeley’s first-ever Latino mayor, Jesse Arreguin, was elected through rank choice voting with a 59% majority in an eight-candidate race. Time and time again, rank choice voting favors people over politics. While there are critics of this system, just like any type of change, it has proven to be a truly historic way of revolutionizing America’s political system.

Under rank-choice voting, candidates will represent an actual vision. The honesty and integrity that ensues would create a kind of election that we don’t dread every four years. It will result in the kind of president that we can truly respect. And, most importantly, the kind of America we are proud to be a part of.

Photo: The Baltimore Sun 

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