Is Ranked-Choice Voting Truly A Failure?

Recently, there was bit of a perfect storm of negative publicity aimed at ranked-choice voting and I will attempt to confront these criticisms.

There was discussion about how ranked-choice voting did not prevent Susan Collins from being elected in the U.S. Senate. According to Bangor News, the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine did not make any difference, since the majority of people consistently chose the major political parties while the third political parties barely reached 3% in the 2020 U.S. Presidential race.

It is quite narrow-sighted to suggest that ranked-choice voting is a panacea for every short-term problem in politics, and not a long-term procedure that ensures large swaths of the American population (if not the majority) do not feel alienated by the political process. The main reason why the third political parties did not do so well is because they were never well-represented in the first place.

The only instance where the Libertarian Party was having awareness throughout the country was when Donald Trump was running in 2015-6, which caused the traditional Republican guard to suffer an identity crisis. As a result, the Libertarian Party took the initiative under Gary Johnson–a former Republican governor of New Mexico–to make the third political party vote well-known–albeit in an eccentric way. I can remember how Fox News had Libertarian Party ads, which I never remembered seeing until that point, for it may have been the first time it has ever happened. As a result, the Libertarian Party received its largest share of votes in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in its entire history. If that can happen in a national scale, then how would it be applied in a statewide scale? Or even a municipal scale?

When a third political party does not receive a large amount of votes to be taken seriously in future elections, it should not be a failure of the ranked-choice voting, rather it should be a failure of publicity not even on the third political parties’ part, rather on the mainstream news outlets for not taking them seriously and only doing extensive reports about them on presidential races, not any other races.

Donald Trump was able to outsmart the mainstream media by using his rhetoric–either at his rallies or on Twitter–not only to appeal to the ugliest parts of American society, but also to keep the media focused on him. This is a man who had spent his life from the 90s onwards in the public spotlight, so even he would know how to play them like fools. As a result, he barely spent any money on ads yet managed to have enough appeal to win the 2016 Presidential Election.

In the age of social media, there is no excuse for the news outlets or the media to bring light to these third political parties and on ranked-choice voting. Those third political parties have as much a right to be elected as the Democratic and the Republican Parties. As of right now, the idea of ranked choice voting is still very rocky to the broader American population.

As part of the questionnaire in the Massachusetts ballots, Massachusetts voters agreed that they do not want ranked-choice voting in their state. Nik DeCosta-Klipa, who wrote the article about ranked choice voting losing in Massachusetts, wrote about how ranked-choice voting would have made the 2020 U.S. presidential elections even more chaotic. However, he only seems to view ranked-choice voting being applied at an exceptional time like right now where there is a pandemic that completely redefines the locality of voting and the fact that mail-in ballots were primarily used which require manual inspection that would take weeks of counting and recounting. If COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century pandemic, then it would make sense that within the next 100 years, U.S. politics would wise up about another potential pandemic and would have already implemented a system that would prevent further complications.

In a relatively normal–if not normal as possible–election cycle in 2024 and beyond, those voting patterns would probably change. Within a few years, it could be possible that conditions would remedy and the pandemic would be mitigated in such a way that it does not interfere with any more elections. If it can change during Richard Nixon’s bid for the presidency which saw the American South change their loyalty from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, then the same can be possible for every state in that uses ranked choice voting. Of course, instead of divisive rhetoric, ranked choice voting would guarantee unifying rhetoric.

Ranked-choice voting is still relevant in some small towns, cities, and to overseas military personnel from some states. However, they will be used in more locations through America.

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