Authored on July 31, 2019

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. It's 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 in Minnesota. Gov. Walz was the first candidate in an open race to win the governorship since Governor Arnie Carlson's reelection in 1994. In the 2018 DFL primary, the governor's race and several statewide and legislative races resulted in winners without a majority of support. 
  • Speaking of plurality outcomes: The widely-perceived divisive governor of Maine, Paul LePage inspired a statewide successful push for RCV. Maine voters held their first RCV election in 2018 which resulted in statewide and Congressional winners with broad majority support.
  • 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. Rochester, Bloomington and Minnetonka are among the cities currently moving toward Ranked Choice Voting. 
  • 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 2017 municipal races in the Twin Cities resulted in St. Paul's first African American mayor and Minneapolis' most diverse council ever, one that is 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.