Letter: Ranked-choice voting will reduce divisiveness

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Seventy thousand Mainers successfully petitioned for a November 2016 referendum vote on ranked-choice voting.

If passed, RCV would apply to Maine primary and general elections for Congress, state Legislature, and governor whenever there are three or more candidates. Voters rank preferences among candidates. If no candidate receives a first-ballot majority, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. That candidate’s votes are reassigned to the remaining candidates based on his voter’s second choices. In a three-person race, one candidate would now win with a majority.

RCV encourages less divisive politics: Winning requires a majority, so candidates will broaden their positions to seek second-choice votes, and individuals with broader appeal are encouraged to run. Because they can designate a second choice, voters give first-choice ranking to the candidate they prefer without worrying about “wasting” their votes.

Brian Burwell

  • Parke Braverton

    Did the writer consider that Ranked-Choice all but requires computerized voting machines, many of which still do not have a “paper trail”?

  • Parke Braverton

    Did the reader consider that Ranked-Choice changes what this state means by “majority-rule?” It changes the possibility of having plurality winners to requiring absolute majorities.

    Also, under Ranked choice, it creates the possibility that two candidates can win over 50%.

    • EABeem

      How do you figure that? If there are three candidates, the third place candidate is eliminated and his/her voters have their second choices counted along with the first choice votes of the two run-off candidates. They can’t both get more than 50% of the resulting vote as far as I understand it. Am I missing something?

      • Parke Braverton

        Oh Edgar Allen Beem. Ranked Voting can create mathematical anomalies where two candidates both win over 50%. Part of it has to do if and when voters do not rank all their choices, thereby exhausting their ballots.

        You can’t refute my other points – like electronic voting machines and changing the definition of majority rule – so you pick on this one point that you don’t understand.

        • EABeem

          I wasn’t picking on anything. I was asking a question. You may be right. I have read quite a bit about IRV and talked to the folks who are behind the Maine referendum, so I am aware of some of the unintended consequences, but I find it hard to believe that two candidates could get more than 50% of the vote. You said they could and I just asked how. So how?

          • Parke Braverton

            It is possible, I just cannot explain it fully, and it may be an unlikely outcome. Like I said, I think part of this anomaly happens if and when voters do not rank all of their choices. So if you’re given 4 candidates to rank and some voters rank only 2 or 3 of the candidates (or one candidate, because they are confused) then their votes are not ranked and it causes strange results.

            There is more thoughtful criticism of ranked voting here:


          • EABeem

            Okay. Thanks.

          • Scott Harriman

            I’m curious about this, too. The link you provided doesn’t mention such a scenario, a Google search comes up empty, and I’ve been running through some examples and can’t come up with a way that that could happen.

            Can you provide more information?

  • Parke Braverton

    Couple of new points here. Ranked Choice is expensive – because it all but requires new computerized voting machines, many of which do not leave a paper trail. Problem. Also a problem if the machines malfunction.

    Second. Ranked choice ballots must be counted in a centralized location. If it’s a house of representatives race, all the ballots from the congressional district must be counted together. If it’s a state race, all the ballots from the state must be counted together. It has to be centralized because they have to consider the ranked choices of all the voters together. Problem. This requires extra logistics, extra costs, and increases the chances of ballot tampering or malfunction.

    Since the vote tabulation has to be centralized, there is less you glean from the local results.

    Third, and I think most damaging to this writer’s letter. It actually can lead to “wasted votes.” If there are three or more candidates in the race, it can defeat a candidate who would have won a 2 person race against any of the other candidates.

  • Christopher White

    After I spew my fascist talking points, I usually crap my pants or wet myself..