From: Axel Daood

St. Charles

Eight months after an attack on the U.S. Capitol, we still have many questions. How did we get here? Who should we hold accountable? Are these the people we elected to safeguard our democracy? It was George Washington who warned of political factionalism in his 1796 farewell address. Is this fear becoming a reality?

By looking at the contentious dynamics of our politics, it is almost predictable an outburst of such was going to happen eventually. The system we use to elect representatives is flawed. It is a proven principle, Duverger’s Law, that when voting in a system such as ours, two parties evidently emerge as dominant. The concern is that candidates of these two contending parties may have the incentive to take unscrupulous actions to get that victory. We have seen politicians pushing the envelope further every election cycle, developing a reliance on gerrymandered districts, spoiler candidates, and misinformation campaigns. Over the past year, Republicans have chosen to spread lies about voter fraud. What line will be crossed next?

No perfect voting system exists because issues always arise in translating constituency to representation. So what does a less imperfect system look like? Luckily, there is a simple, non-partisan reform that already has momentum among reasonable Republicans and Democrats. It’s called ranked choice voting (RCV). For voters, RCV is as simple as ranking your favorite candidates, but it can address the complex issues associated with extremism and polarization.

While ranking, voters often have multiple Democrats, Republicans, or independents to choose from. This is because with RCV, candidates of the same party can appear on the ballot without spoiling the election for each other. Once voters rank their ballots, the tallying process begins, requiring that the victor get at least a majority of support. Voters’ first choices are counted, and the least popular candidate is defeated. The second-choice votes from these ballots are then added to the remaining candidates’ tallies, such that your vote is not wasted. This process continues until one candidate crosses the 50-percent threshold. 

Because candidates need voters’ first-choice and second-choice ballots, they will be prone to reach out to a broader electorate for support. With RCV, divisive and extremist candidates who have gained traction in recent elections will be penalized more harshly at the polls.

Our current system exacerbates the political issues we are facing, so we must address the root cause of it: our voting system. If you still don’t fully understand RCV, don’t sweat it, but don’t discount it either. RCV could save our democracy. We must contact our legislators about passing it and elect candidates who support it right away.