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Rank Choice Voting

Sometimes I imagine the whole world is a simulation and you could change one single variable to see what happens. What would life be like without John Wilkes Booth? What if Franz Ferdinand didn’t get lost that summer day in Sarajevo? What if Alexander the Great had died in his first battle? (He almost did)

What if you could tweak other things? Like the way we vote. There is a movement happening right now to change our voting system to rank-choice instead of a single vote. By the way, this entire thought process is how Product Design works. You think about how things work and what would happen if you changed something.

Radio Lab produced this great podcast on the topic.

What is rank choice voting?

In a nutshell, Rank Choice Voting (RCV) is when you don’t vote for just one person. You get preferences for your first, second, third, etc. If your first candidate is eliminated, your second preference would kick in. Many states/countries/cities and even countries vote this way. Let’s look at the benefits of Rank Choice Voting:

Not more “wasting your vote”

I remember how mad I was 18 years ago when Ralph Nadar cost Al Gore the Presidential election. The world might be very different if we had national rank-choice voting. Ralph Nadar was a spoiler. In other words, some people preferred Ralph Nadar first and Al Gore second and George Bush third. However, in the single vote system you can’t do that. It’s Ralph Nadar or no one. So all of those votes came away from Al Gore and thus tilted the election, especially in Florida.

I hate the idea that your vote can be wasted. RCV eliminates that possibility so you can give preference all the way through.

More candidates

Because of votes not being wasted, it opens the doors to more candidates and more parties. This means people can have their favorite issue and still participate fully in the election. They can vote for the “Clean Air” candidate and then a more mainstream Democrat (for example). Having more parties is a good thing. Money would get distributed more evenly and avoid a monopoly of money and power by only 2 parties. It would also mean you could express your opinions more clearly. Third and fourth party candidates help keep the system balanced and not go to the edges of “base-only politics”.

Coalitions and kindness

Because of the methodology of RCV, it incentivizes candidates to reach outside their base and form coalitions with other candidates. (See that podcast above for examples). In other words, it causes candidates to act nicer to other candidates. Coalitions are how compromise and cross-partisanship policy works. We need more people in our government who are willing to compromise for sensible legislation. We have alot of new problems in the world. The fact that we are #1 country on the list of most people in prison sickens me.

We lead the list both in total population AND per capita.

It’s nuts, but this post isn’t about incarceration. However, I believe RCV would change the fundamentals of this problem and allow solutions to come into being.

Better Representation

We don’t want the bases of our country to be electing our officials. We want the majority to be represented. However, with the two-party single vote system, you end up being all about your base in a winner-take-all battle to the death. With RCV, you end up with more moderate candidates that appeal to more people. This will yield candidates who better represent the populace.

Designing Democracy

We don’t need to “love it or leave it”. We can tweak it!

Imagine if Windows 3.1 or the original iPhone said, “Love it or leave it” and never updated their system. Why can’t we love it AND evolve it? Why can’t democracy get a system update once in a while? Small tweaks can have big impacts. The RCV movement is about designing a better system of voting.

Who is in charge of propositions in California? I’d like to put this on the ballot.

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One Comment

  1. I would also like to see a vote against a person. I don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I can cast a negative vote against Donald Trump (it would still count the same overall, but would have a different meaning). This could eliminate the “mandate” that politicians claim after they win. It could also highlight if voters are truly dissatisfied with both candidates, perhaps leading to to them actually getting better, more responsive candidates. It would also give opposition voters and voice when their is only one candidate on the ballot.

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