Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

Imagining a ranked-choice election

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: October 30, 2012 - 5:43 PM
“Imagine this election season with ranked-choice voting,” challenged Tuesday’s email from FairVote Minnesota, the nonpartisan group promoting a change from plurality-wins to majority-wins elections via voting by rank-ordering candidates.
OK, I’ll give it a go.  
Minnesota and the nation are almost evenly divided between the two major parties, polls have shown all year. RCV can’t promise to change that narrow divide. There’s nothing about voting by rank order that prevents close elections.
But RCV could alter election math by increasing the number of serious contenders for offices. That seems likely in Minnesota races because third-party access the ballot and to public campaign financing is already relatively easy.  RCV would allow a voter to opt for a third-party candidate as a first choice and express a second choice too, thereby eliminating the fear that a vote for a third-party candidate is a wasted ballot or a benefit to the voter’s least favorite candidate.
Another likely RCV benefit: Campaigns would be less negative. That’s because each candidate would be angling not just to turn out his or her strongest supporters, but also to be the second choice of another candidate’s voters. Offend the other camp, and the second choices that could determine the election’s outcome won’t come your way. No voter is required to cast a second choice under RCV. It merely provides that option.
More candidates making more noise might not sound terribly appealing during this long campaign’s last full week. But if the noise were less offensive and more genuinely informative? I know quite a few people who would vote for that change right now.  

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