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Ranked-choice voting is good, actually

October 23, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

Over recent weeks, a debate has erupted in the Orient opinion pages on the merits of ranked-choice voting (RCV). A series of competing op-eds and letters to the editor have argued that the increased turnout among disillusioned voters due to RCV could do one of two things: help Joe Biden gain support from unlikely voters who will rank him second, or hurt Biden by dampening enthusiasm or even creating the possibility of a third-party win.

In response, we would like to emphatically state that any electoral reform allowing for a more honest representation of a voter’s political beliefs is a good thing. We’d also like to remind our readers that it is not reckless for people to support the candidate they feel most closely matches their ideals; rather, it is a cornerstone of what it means to be an American voter.

This is exactly why RCV is such an excellent reform—it allows voters to support the candidate they believe in, a right that is enshrined in the constitution, while not sacrificing their influence in the undemocratic system of the Electoral College.

Maine will make history as the first state to use RCV in a presidential election. RCV will also be used in the hotly-contested senate race between Sara Gideon and incumbent Susan Collins, as well as in the state’s two congressional races.

RCV allows third-party voters to select and support the candidate most aligned with their values without having to fear that their vote will be lost. Under her current “Rank Lisa First” campaign, Maine Green Independent Party Senate candidate Lisa Savage is encouraging voters to rank her first and her competitor, Sara Gideon, second. This allows Savage to run on an eco-socialist platform while not handing the election to the GOP. In fact, by encouraging some progressives who might not otherwise vote at all under a two-party race to rank her first and Sara Gideon second, Savage is likely helping Gideon’s chances, even while running against her.

In further evidence that RCV will not harm Biden’s chances of carrying the state of Maine, the GOP has invested considerable resources in fighting its implementation. It argued at the Maine Supreme Court that RCV was an unconstitutional reform, and, earlier this year, it attempted to stage an emergency “people’s veto” to prevent RCV from being used during this presidential election. The Maine Supreme Court later denied the action due to an insufficient number of valid signatures.

Few elections have held as much significance as the presidential race facing us this year. Voters are rightfully concerned that their vote may not be counted when the stakes are higher than almost ever before. But let’s elect to use our power this November. As voiced previously in the opinion section, many students may not be fully enthralled with Biden, but they do not want to see another term of the current administration. For students who want to show their support for third-party candidates, we encourage you to vote according to your values. Those of us who are voting in Maine have the unique freedom of being able to do so responsibly—let’s use it.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Tess Davis, Julia Jennings, Diego Lasarte, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay and Ayub Tahlil.


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  1. '21 says:

    Ranked choice voting doesn’t prevent voters from “sacrificing their influence in the undemocratic system of the Electoral College,” it prevents them from sacrificing their vote in the undemocratic two-party system. The issue with the electoral college is primarily overflow votes and separating vote totals by state.

  2. PaulG says:

    RCV is a corrupt system that marginalizes the non-“big party” candidates. It is also falsely called “instant run-off” election, which it most definitely is not. Unlike an ACTUAL “run off” election, where people vote for the candidates currently before them each time, if your top choices didn’t make it to the current round, you don’t get a vote in that round…you aren’t actually able to vote for the current candidates. That is most certainly not an “every vote counts” system. RCV is like a Let’s Make a Deal gameshow – you have to make your choice by GUESSING how others will be voting (will it be door number 1 or number 2 or would you rather have what’s behind the curtain?), and hoping you make the right choice or you lose everything.

    The only fair election is a simple majority election. The candidate with more votes than all the other candidates is the declared winner. It most directly captures the ACTUAL intent of the people.

    While the problems of RCV might not matter much in local elections, in no way should it ever be allowed for federal elections.

    • Dave Heller says:

      Paul, RCV IS a majority election! Plurality Voting, “the person with the most votes wins” is not necessarily a majority!

      With RCV, there IS a winner by the MAJORITY of the voters! 50% + 1 is what wins, not 35%!

      If by “marginalizing ‘big party’ candidates”, you mean level’s the playing field for grassroots candidates, then you are correct, but it no way, shape or form hurts a candidate from being supported by their supporters. “Big party” candidates start the race with huge advantages over (mostly financial) over their fledgling counterparts. Yes, RCV takes away the extorted vote, but in a society we’re nearly half the eligible people don’t vote, the “Big Parties” will benefit from the second choice votes of people that show up to vote for Greens and Libertarians as their first choice.

      Wouldn’t it be better for a candidate to win with a majority of 85% of eligible voters than a 35% of half the voters?

      You won’t gaslight this voter!

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