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Ranked Choice Voting Talking Points

Polarization is at an all-time high as seen in the caustic, chaotic 2016 presidential race and its fueled by the outmoded plurality system. Here are some talking points to help understand the current political situation and how Ranked Choice Voting is key to fixing our broken system.

  • The current system encourages candidates to pander to the extremes, resulting in winners beholden to a zealous few instead of a broad majority.
  • Our system has contributed to the breakdown of compromise and bipartisan consensus-building, hindering the ability of our governing institutions to effectively address the challenges faced by Minnesotans.
  • In contrast, RCV fosters coalition-building and true majority mandates, helping to overcome political extremism and rebuild the capacity for compromise, consensus-making and creative problem-solving once candidates take office.
  • Plurality-take-all elections are a holdover from an era in which there were usually only two parties on the ballot; theyre out of step with the countrys growing political diversity. (Arguably, in this years presidential race, Trump and Sanders would have run as independents or third-party candidates. But no one wants to be a spoiler, and under the current system, those who run outside the two major parties are spoilers, and their supporters are wasting their votes.
  • The plurality system keeps good people from seeking elected office. Its impossible to know how many thoughtful, qualified candidates from outside the two major parties chose not to run at all, for precisely these reasons. The status quo discourages good candidates without major-party connections from even considering elected public service.
  • Plurality winners have, unfortunately, become commonplace. Gov. Dayton's reelection in 2014 was the first time a governor won with a majority of support since Governor Arnie Carlson's reelection in 1994. Legislative and federal races are trending this way too, with dozens of races decided by a plurality since 2002.
  • Speaking of plurality outcomes: The widely-perceived divisive governor of Maine, Paul LePage, owes his seat to narrow plurality victories and inspired a statewide successful push for RCV. After experiencing how well Ranked Choice Voting worked in Portland city elections, Maine voters are moving to a system that fosters consensus outcomes . . . and more thoughtful, responsible governance.
  • Ranked Choice Voting (a.k.a. Instant Runoff Voting) gives voters more choice while eliminating the problems of spoiler candidates and wasted votes. The current system forces voters to choose between voting for their preferred candidate (and risk helping elect the candidate they like the least) or for their second choice to avoid wasting their vote.
  • Ranked Choice Voting provides a clear incentive for candidates to campaign positively and on ideas and positions that matter to voters. The current system rewards negative, attack-style campaigns. Candidates can win votes by driving up opponents negatives, persuading voters to vote against the opponent instead of for the candidate. A candidate behaves differently knowing that being someones second choice is a tangible benefit, and one thats within reach.
  • The need to emphasize common ground and ones own ideas, experience, and accomplishments better lends itself to old-fashioned retail politics: face-to-face conversations with voters about issues that matter to them. A candidate who campaigns this way can actually have an advantage over big-money candidates who rely on mud-slinging negative ads.
  • RCV provides our electoral process with a badly needed upgrade. Its like a traditional runoff, but faster, simpler, and cheaper.
  • Under RCV, voters choose the candidate they prefer as they would on a traditional ballot but also additional choices if they wish. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, that candidate wins. If not, the least popular candidate is eliminated and his or her ballots are divided among the remaining candidates based on voters second choices. If there's still no majority winner, the process repeats until one candidate gains a majority of support. Or, in the case of multi-winner elections, until all seats are filled.
  • In local nonpartisan races, primaries have become expensive no-show elections in which qualified candidates get weeded out by just a small number of voters before the November election. At the local level, RCV combines the primary and general election, saving costs and maximizing voter participation.
  • In state partisan elections, RCV can be used in the primary to ensure winning candidates are supported by a majority of party voters, as well as in the general election to accomplish majority outcomes without a separate, costly, low-turnout runoff election.
  • Under RCV, the outcome more accurately reflects the will of the voters, and officeholders serve knowing they were elected with majority support. In multi-winner elections, RCV allows more voters to be represented by someone they voted for.
  • RCV gives greater opportunity to candidates of color and a greater voice to communities of color. The 2013 municipal race in Minneapolis resulted in the citys most diverse council ever, ones thats more reflective of the 21stcentury electorate.
  • RCV works. Minneapolis and St. Paul have demonstrated RCV's overwhelming success and its popularity with voters. Its a proven system used in numerous U.S. cities and in democracies around the world, including Ireland, Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and London.
  • RCV is also used by more than a hundred colleges and organizations across the country, including by the Academy of Motion Pictures to elect Best Picture, by the Olympics to decide host cities, and by the American Political Science Association to elect their president.
  • Theres a growing consensus that RCV is the way to go. Nationally respected political commentators, including the New Yorkers Hendrik Hertzberg and Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond along with major media outlets like Forbes, Bloomberg View, the Nation, the Economist, Scientific American, the Boston Globe, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press have made the case that Ranked Choice Voting would dramatically improve American politics. 

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