Ranked Choice Voting Better than Montana Primary
by Erne Lewis
When the political parties sued to get rid of the blanket primary in Washington State, their purpose was to allow the party members of each party to choose the candidate who would represent their political philosophies—an obvious freedom of association claim. The court agreed but the solution given to us by the legislature and the Governor certainly doesn’t meet that standard and it is arguably far worse. In place of the blanket primary we now have the complicated and expensive Montana primary system.
Voters in Pierce County receive a single consolidated ballot that includes all races and measures up for consideration. However, for partisan votes to count, a voter must affiliate with a political party by checking a box at the top of the ballot after which they must only vote for candidates who also affiliate with that political party. (Those candidates may actually not be members of that party). Crossing over and voting for candidates of another political party will result in the loss of all partisan votes. As with the blanket primary, party members have lost control of who represents their party. The cynical use of the Montana primary to replace the blanket primary system confirms for many voters—myself included—that they vote in elections controlled by politicians to keep themselves in office.
Across the United States as well as in Pierce County, voters usually explain after an election that they voted for the lesser of two evils; they believe that if they vote for the person they really want, their vote won’t count. So they vote for the least-bad candidate, or they don’t vote at all.
Ranked Choice Voting does away with that problem while increasing political participation. But it has another very important advantage. It removes the need and cost of the primary.
In the Ranked Choice Voting System each voter, without regard to who might win, ranks in preference from among all the candidates their first choice, then their second choice, and third choice, and so on including the least-bad candidate that they would have felt obligated to chose under the present system.
When the votes are counted—assuming there were several candidates—if someone doesn’t win more than 50% of the first choice votes then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and the votes are counted again, this time including the second choice votes of the voters who voted for the eliminated candidate. That process is repeated until a candidate has won more than 50% of the votes.
The winner will be first choice for many and second choice for others and perhaps third or even fourth choice for a lot of voters. But that winner will be someone who can truly say he has the most support and the most genuine support of all the candidates who ran.
I believe RCV will soon be used in most elections to avoid the cost and poor results produced by the present primary system. Ranked Choice Voting would offer Pierce County voters an opportunity that other Washington voters do not presently have. We should take advantage of this opportunity.