A (Much) Better Way to Vote – Fixing America – Idea 23

By June 28th, 2021

Blog No. 132
June 29, 2021 

Fixing America – Idea 23 

Reading Time: 10 Minutes
By Mack W. Borgen
University of California at Berkeley (Honors, Economics); Harvard Law School; National Award-Winning Author, The Relevance of Reason (Volumes I and II) (2013) and Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America (Volumes I, II, and III) (2018-2019); and The Writings of a Lifetime (2021).
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Over the last two and a half years, I have presented a wide-ranging set of ideas for “resetting” and “fixing” America. This blog presents Idea 23 in this his “Fixing America” series of articles. 

A (Much) Better Way to Vote   


Background: When I was back in high school in Chicago — a couple of lifetimes ago, the joking refrain about voting was “to vote early and often.” But since then Americans have become sour, dour, litigious, and angry. About voting. Heck, about everything. There are debates now raging about many aspects of voting — voter identification, the use of mail-in ballots, ballot locations and hours, the use of drop-boxes, and on and on. But as important as these matters are and as important as it is to defeat all forms of voter suppression, there is one simple reform which may be better and far more impactful. However, due primarily to the over-bearing dominance of our two major national political parties, this idea is not being discussed enough. This must change.

The idea could constructively reform the way Americans vote. It could

1- Better assure that candidates who are elected more precisely reflect the proverbial “will of the people;”

2- Elevate the impact of third-party candidates and votes cast for lesser-known candidates;

4- Avoid the necessity of costly runoff elections; and

5- Possibly most importantly, in the opinion of this author, lessen the domination of American life by the two major political parties.

To start, it must be recognized that there are multiple variants of the idea. These variants go by a wide array of names – ranked voting, preferential voting, ranked-choice voting, instant-runoff voting, contingent voting, and single transferable voting. In most instances in this article, I address ranked-choice voting (“RCV”). Unver a RCV system, voters ranked candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first -preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. A possibly preferable variant is “approval voting” (“AV”) whereby voters can choose any number of candidates, and the candidate chosen the most wins.  One advantage of AV is that it may be the most expressive of the will of the people, and it would eliminate vote-splitting almost entirely, thereby virtually eliminating spoilers.

But all variants of RCV seek to achieve the same purpose. They seek to better assure that one’s vote is more than the current all-or-nothing, vote-for-one-candidate system which is now used in nearly all U.S. elections.

A side benefit of RCV is, curiously, rarely discussed. That benefit is that RCV would lessen the waste-your-vote consequence currently associated with all voting for third-party or lesser known candidates. This is ever more critical since too many Americans have for decades had to accept the “lesser-of-two-evil” candidates. In such instances, Americans are de facto forced to vote for either the Democrat or Republican candidate. Otherwise, their vote would not be “wasted.” With RCV, a voter can never get a “worse” result by voting for one’s favorite candidate.

Reflecting even upon relatively recent elections, RCV could have had significant impacts. To cite two obvious examples, if RCV had been in place, it is likely that Bush Sr. would have defeated Clinton who many feel acceded to the White House merely because of the impact of the “third-party candidacy” of Ross Perot. Similarly, Al Gore would have defeated George W. Bush rather than losing due to the wasted-vote “third-party” candidacy of Ralph Nader.

Thus, where there are such close elections between the candidates of the major national parties, preferential voting elections could swing elections. And that, over time, is a good thing because the outcomes would swing both by and in the direction of the will of the American people. Potentially more impactful, it could enhance the voice and influence of candidates and minor political parties who, for whatever (numerous) reasons reject the monetary and structural entrenchment of the current two political parties.

Variations of such preferential and instant runoff voting systems already exist around the world (Australia (since 1949!), parts of Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and Malta (since 1921)). More recently, it is also starting to be used in the United States (Maine (since 2018), Alaska (starting next year)), and in some state and local elections in fourteen states. Just last week, a variation of RCV was used for the first time in the New York City mayoral race.

Idea:      Adopt some form of ranked-choice or approval voting in all national and statewide elections. 

Implementation: Admittedly hard and challenging. Such change in the voting structure will be fought by both major parties. Very closely related, it will be fought by “bog money.” But, still, it must be done. Citizen action and candidate platforms will have to be used. It is encouraging that progress is already starting to be made. Possibly, the best mechanism for adoption of RCV is for more and more localities (states, counties, cities, and agencies) to adopt such RCV voting. As this becomes the “normal” way of voting for more Americans, the demand for such voting at the national and statewide levels may slowly grow. It is recommended that the “hook” arguments would be that ranked-choice voting  (a) would lessen the controlling dominance of the two major parties and (b) would assure that more people could vote for other candidates or parties (e.g. Reform, Green, Libertarian, whatever) without having to waste their vote in the process.  The secondary impact would be that especially in statewide and Congressional elections, “third-party” candidates could be given a chance without having to sell their soul and pledge their votes to the establishment parties who, at this time, are mired in mud, twisted by money, and the burdened by the demand of party allegiance.



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See Additional Previously Presented Ideas: 
Idea 1 –  Consolidated Interstate Database for Reports of License Suspension or Revocation (Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019). 
Idea 2 – Term Limits (Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019).
Idea 3 – The Media – Report Corporate Settlements, Awards and Fines as Percentage of Annual Net Profits (Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019). 
Idea 4 – Award of Attorneys’ Fees to Winning Party (Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019).
Idea 5 – Inclusion of Positive Aspects of American Society as a Distinct Part of U.S. History School Curricula (Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019). 
Idea 6 – Office of International Comparisons (Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019). 
Idea 7 – The Need for Climate Scientists to Retain Professions for the Development of an Educational Campaign (Blog 109, Nov. 26, 2019). 
Idea 8 – Redefining the Concept of “News” The Need for the Regular Infusion of Positive News (Blog 109, Nov. 26, 2019). 
Idea 9 – The Necessity of Mandatory Public Service (Blog 109, Nov 26, 2019). 
Idea 10 – Cap or Tie Congressional Pay Increases (Blog 110, Dec 7, 2019). 
Idea 11 – Scrutinize (and Possibly Eliminate) the Congressional Health Care System (Blog 110, Dec 7, 2019). 
Idea 12 – Eliminate the Congressional Retirement System (Blog 111, Dec 7, 2019). 
Idea 13 – Cease production and eliminate the use of the U.S. penny (Blog 112, Dec 7, 2019).
Idea 14 – Institutionalized Use of U.S. Military Units in Event of Natural Disasters (Blog 113, Feb 11, 2020) 
Idea 15 – Streamline the Federal and State Penal Codes and Address the Issue of Overcriminalization in American Society (Blog 1124, Feb. 25, 2020).
Idea 16 – It’s Time to Reset America (Blog 118, Jun 30, 2020).
Idea 17 – If They’re Good Enough for Our Capitalism, They’re Good Enough for Our Democracy – Monthly Bonus Payments for Excellence in Citizenship (Blog 119, Jul 15, 2020).
Idea 18 – Let Us Try – The Simple Utility of Remembering America’s “Good Celebrities” (Blog 120, Aug 2, 2020).
Idea 19 – – If We Get It Right – The Next “Greatest Generation” (Blog 121, Aug 18, 2020).
Idea 20 – -The Truth Problem – The Need for Rating Newspapers, Magazines, and Columnists and Television and Radio Stations, Shows and Commentators (Blog 123, Sep 22, 2020). 
Idea 21 – We Attorneys Are a (Big) Part of America’s Problems (Blog 125) (Dec 1, 2020 (Part 1) and Dec 3, 2020 (Part 2)).
Idea 22 – Ban Commercially-Driven Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Drug Advertising (Blog 131) (June 2, 2021) 
Idea 23 – A (Much) Better Way to Vote (Blog 133, June 29, 2021).
Copyright 2021 by Mack W. Borgen. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews, without prior written permission by the author.


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