Farewell, Bernie Sanders. Anyway, Have You Heard of Our Lord and Savior, Ranked Choice Voting?
For Bernie Sanders supporters, where to redirect your energy now that he has suspended his presidential campaign for the 2020 Democratic primary?
While Bernie Sanders is not out of the ballot, his campaign suspension sent waves of frustration and provoked deep-seeded disgruntlement against the USA two-party system, especially for those who are none too pleased that political harm-reduction against Donald Trump will likely lie in voting for Joe Biden, a man with a well documented — sometimes filmed-in-public — issue with violating the boundaries of women.
Which is a good time for me to say, have you heard of our Lord and Savior, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)?
What is RCV? For those who don’t live in Maine or San Francisco, California, ranked choice is a form of voting where instead of picking your “one and only” candidate, you rank your candidates. Those rankings will account for the final tally. It avoids splitting the vote and is particularly handy for crowded ballots when it’s tough for one candidate to win the decisive “50% + 1” majority. . New York City is set to use RCV borough-wide for municipal primaries in 2021. States like Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming will use them for their upcoming Democratic primary (Note: Sanders may have suspended his campaign but can still acquire delegates).
Because of a crummy two-party system where third parties don’t have a great shot at winning office, voters find themselves in a situation where they vote for a candidate they don’t really like (ahem, Joe Biden) but they want to do damage-control and vote for said candidate anyway. They end up voting for their disliked candidate (ahem, Biden) not because they believe in them but because they view them as a lesser of two evils of sort. And because RCV avoids splitting the ticket, it will allow voters to vote with their full conscience and have more agency in picking the candidate who aligns with them. Are you a third-party voter or supporter? You can vote for your third-party candidate as your number one and still make backup choices.
Frustration boiled up in the last Super Tuesday elections on March 3rd. When Democratic presidential nominees like Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang dropped out before Election Day just as early voting polls were closing, many felt their early-day votes were wasted. So if ranked choice voting was in place, how would that have solved first-choice candidates dropping out? If RCV was on the ballot, say you voted for Beto, but you also picked a second or third choice. Beto drops out, your vote defers to your second or third choice.
If you’re disgruntled about your presidential candidate suspending their campaign, ranked choice voting is an ideal non-partisan cause.
And if your brain has a strong threshold, you should jump into other democratic crises: not taking your downballots for granted, fighting against gerrymandering so that politicians won’t manipulate election outcomes, tackling vote suppression like the fiasco in Wisconsin, etc.
RCV is just one of those ways to fight for a productive democracy.
Resources to get started: FairVote has a toolkit and tracks state-wide and city-wide movements. You can google if you have a local ranked choice movement in your city/state.