Your Voice 2016
Voting for third parties in America sucks. Don’t get mad at me, it’s not my fault. I didn’t design the system where if you vote for a non-Democrat and non-Republican, you frequently end up helping no one and maybe even hurting someone. But like any broken system, it can be fixed.
That is to say, it could—if politicians like California Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t stand in the way. Brown vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed any city in California to switch to ranked voting, as opposed to the current first-past-the-post system.
Ranked voting, also sometimes called instant runoff voting, is a system wherein a voter ranks all the candidates for an office by number according to which ones they would most like to win. After the votes are tallied, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and everyone who voted for him or her has their second place vote used instead. This continues on until there are two candidates left and a clear winner.
Such a system could have prevented a scenario like the 2000 presidential election. If Ralph Nader supporters had been able to put Al Gore as their #2 choice, Gore would have gotten their votes and could have won Florida, and the election. This year, voters who are on the fence about Jill Stein or Gary Johnson could vote for them without worrying that they are helping Donald Trump win. It’s the best of both worlds! And it avoids costly runoffs that routinely yield bare-bones participation from voters.
Sounds simple, right? Brown doesn’t think so.
“In a time where we want more voter participation, we need to keep voting simple,” he wrote in a letter to the state senate. “Ranked choice voting is overly complicated and confusing. I believe it deprives voters of a genuinely informed choice.”
To hear the governor equate having more freedom of choice at the polls with being less informed is disappointing, although maybe not surprising. Having third party options become more accessible in a state where both leading Senate candidates are currently Democrats might not end well for Brown and his party.
Party loyalists may not like the idea, but voters, especially younger ones, want more options than just red or blue at the ballot box. A Quinnipiac University Poll found 44 percent of voters between the ages of 18 to 34 were considering a third-party candidate for president and unaffiliated voters across all age groups now outnumber Democrats and Republicans.
This won’t be the last we hear about ranked voting in California nor the rest of the country as well. Maine voters will consider a constitutional amendment in its upcoming general election that goes even farther than the bill Brown vetoed, bringing ranked voting to all statewide offices.
I guess it’s up to the Maine voters to decide if they’re capable of making a “genuinely informed choice” or not.