Ranked-choice voting system would value moderation

  • Updated: November 14, 2012 - 10:09 AM

Here's an interesting point to think about. The DFL this year adopted the use of ranked-choice voting (RCV), also known as instant runoff voting, for state and local elections as part of its platform. RCV would give voters the ability to rank their preferred candidates on election ballots.

It's really pretty simple: In a three-way race, if your first preference gets the least first-preference votes, then your vote would go to your second preference so that it isn't "wasted." RCV is already working well on a local level. Considering that the DFL just took control in St. Paul, we should expect to see RCV in the 2014 election, right? Wrong -- it probably won't happen. And here's why.

Even though Democrats in Minnesota (and many Republicans, for that matter) love ranked-choice voting, it would be bad for both parties because it would give value to votes cast for independent candidates. Voters would be able to express their displeasure with the way Democrats and Republicans are running the state without fear that they would waste their votes, and over time it would erode the power of the two-party system.

Also, RCV forces candidates to compete for second- and third-preference votes, and you don't do that by demonizing the other side. Candidates would be forced to moderate their rhetoric and propose avenues for pragmatic compromise during campaigns. This proposition is horrifying to both Democrats and Republicans who thrive on mobilizing bases based on fear and hatred for the other side.

This, unfortunately, is why RCV is unlikely to show up this spring.

That's a shame. Political parties have no intrinsic value. Rather, they are valuable to the degree that they represent their constituents. The DFL has the power to reform Minnesota's voting system, making it more pragmatic and representative for generations to come, but RCV isn't on the party's current agenda.

Does the DFL care more about its own interests or the will of its constituents? I really hope for the latter, but we'll have to wait and see.

JOHN BUSSEY, MINNEAPOLIS

The Petraeus affair

There must be more to the story

In the end, this may be a simple story: A woman gets a series of disturbing messages and asks an FBI agent she knows for help. A few months later, the nation's chief spy -- and perhaps its greatest living military hero -- comes crashing down.

If you believe in coincidences.

If you don't, there has to be a foreign spymaster involved, an updated version of John le Carré's diabolical Karla, an unseen figure manipulating these characters like puppets toward subtle and devious ends. Maybe I see the game that's being played. Maybe I know what this is all about.

But if I told you, I'd have to kill you.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST

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