We should expect more pieces like the one by Andrew Welhouse against Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as it gains popularity. Those in power know it weakens their hold. And with the stink of Trumpism, Republican leaders are especially worried — many conservatives would love other options.
But let’s take Welhouse’s article point-by-point:
First, he claims RCV votes are wasted if you don’t rank all your choices. And sure. On any voting day, if you skip down-ballot races, you choose not to vote in those races. Similarly, if you skip candidates in RCV, you’ve indicated no preference between them.
Second, Welhouse brings up last year’s Democratic win in Alaska despite 60% favoring Republicans. And it’s true, Alaska’s election was a good example of the “center squeeze” phenomenon. Votes show moderate Republican Nick Begich would have beaten both Democrat Mary Peltola and the hard-right option Sarah Palin in head-to-head matches. But the reason he lost was that Begich was everyone’s second choice and nobody’s first.
And that’s not entirely illogical — to win a race, you should be people’s first choice. But the rest of the story is that Peltola won over Palin because RCV rewards those like Peltola who avoid extremism so they can attract second choice votes, too. Maybe a perfect system would have resulted in Begich, but RCV creates good incentives.
Third, Welhouse points to chaos in a couple of RCV races around the country. But we’re still in early days with RCV, and systems will improve over time. It’s not like the current system never has issues.
And finally, he complains that RCV asks voters to research all candidates so they can rank them. It’s telling he sees this as a downside. Today, most voters don’t look beyond the major party candidates.
And the major parties like it that way.
David Hinckley, Orem