Dear fellow democracy champions,
Thank goodness THATS over.
In bitter contrast to last years positive, substantive, Ranked Choice Voting municipal election in Minneapolisa textbook example of what civic engagement can and should bethis years election cycle has been brutal.
The Star Tribune didnt waste any time in recognizing this contrast and the power of Ranked Choice Voting to quell the culture of negative campaigning. In its editorial on Wednesday, it noted, were struck by the vast difference in the tone and substance of campaign messages this year compared with the more temperate Minneapolis mayoral contest in 2013. . . . Ranked-choice voting presents candidates with a disincentive to dish out offensive personal attacks. When candidates depend on second- and third-choice votes to win, attacking opponents can cost them the race.
These past few months weve endured the worst politics has to offer: outrageously negative campaigning, ideological polarization, arguments about third-party spoilers and wasted votes. Not to mention the voter discouragement and cynicism this all engenders. Our political system fails to enlighten voters on candidate positions, instead promoting ad hominem attacks and suppressing voter interest and turnout, especially in midterm elections. As political analyst Wy Spano wrote in an Oct. 31 Duluth News Tribune op-ed, the wedge issues, the nasty ads, the scaremongering, it has become so routine we accept it as an immutable fact of life.
After Election Day, what are we left with? Continued disengagement and disillusionment with a system that leaves most voters feeling disempowered. The polarization feeds on itself and we end up with government thats hopelessly dysfunctional and divided.
Several very tight legislative races in Minnesotaand the close plurality outcome in the Secretary of State raceillustrate our divided government, and if history is any guide, theyll likely set the stage for more partisan gridlock. The same prediction can be made nationally, with several bitterly divided Congressional and Senate races (including Minnesotas 8th District and Louisianas Senate runoff) and thin plurality victories in gubernatorial races across the country.
Election Day exit polls showed that voters are fed up with the rancor; they want more options and fresh perspectives. Sadly, for those who long for the diversity of viewpoints and ideas that third parties can bring, the news is bleak too: the Independence Party lost major-party status, and the Green Party failed to secure it.
Its depressing, but there is hope: Ranked Choice Voting offers a better way. Look to Oakland, California, whose RCV mayoral race echoed the 2013 race in Minneapolis: Consensus winner and Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf wrapped up her positive, issue-based campaign by telling voters, I can't wait to run Oakland the way that we ran this campaign. And candidates won various other RCV elections with consensus-building campaigns in Oakland, San Leandro, San Francisco and more.
In Maine, the flipside of yet another divisive plurality outcome is an electorate newly galvanized to implement statewide RCV. A bi-partisan team of legislators is kicking off a petition drive to do just that, and will find plenty of support for the kind of structural reform statewide that yields campaigns, outcomes and governance more reflective of the broad population.
And here in Minnesota, legislative leader Steve Simon, who authored a bill that would give local communities the freedom and flexibility to use RCV if they wish, was elected Secretary of State. Were hopeful that when that bill comes back before the Legislature next session, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will agree its time for constructive, meaningful change.
Democracy is an ideal and theres no perfect way to achieve it, but we can do so much better. Real change is possible. We know what it takes, and RCV is one key way to bring it about. Thanks to you, weve proven RCV is a doable solution, but we cant stop now. We need your active support now more than ever! FairVote Minnesota staff, volunteers and supporters call on our supporters of all ideological persuasions to summon the collective will to roll up our sleeves and make reform happen across Minnesota.
Together we can transform democracy!
The FairVote Minnesota team