Election day is coming up, and you have received your ballot in the mail. (I live in Washington State, everyone has mail in voting here) You open your ballot and you see the following list of candidates:
- Joe Schmo, (D, Centrist)
- Tom Bob, (D, Progressive)
- Grace Moon, (D, Progressive)
- Mary Polly, (D, libertarian leaning)
- Betsy Ford, (D, establishment)
- Jackie Ronald, (R, Trumpist)
- Andrew Todd, (R, establishment)
- George Adams, (R, Tea Party)
- Ronald John, (Libertarian)
- Nick Verde, (Green)
What are you to do? With 10 choices you need to decide how to vote. Let’s assume you are a heavily leaning Democratic voter with progressive tendencies. There are three basic ways at the voter end this could look, in increasing simplicity:
1. First Past The Post, Top Two Primary
You simply vote for the candidate you like the most and you are done. Sounds reasonable, right? But wait… who is my neighbor voting for? Is this a fringe candidate? I live in a district with about 55% Democrats and 45% Republicans. If we all vote equally for these candidates of our leaning we will have 11% for each Democrat and If the Republicans fall in line between their three candidates each will receive 15%, which will mean that we will have two candidates who the majority of voters don’t like. I’m going to make my best shot based on who my neighbor is voting for so at least one candidate of my party gets to the generic ballot. Hopefully I will be right.
First Past the Post, Voter Primary
I will cast my ballot for the candidate in my party I like the most. If I am not registered as a member of the party then I cannot vote however, so I might get disenfranchised. But since I live in a State with an open primary I am going to vote for the candidate I like most. But I am a Progressive, so we might end up with our ballot being split in two, yielding a moderate, who I could live with, but I would rather have someone who more represents my values. I will have to guess whether Tom or Grace will attract more voters.
I don’t have a choice of which individual represents me. I’ll vote for the Democrats nominate, and hope we get enough seats so at least one progressive gets into office and that they are high enough on the list.
It doesn’t really matter what my neighbors or the party think of the candidates, my vote is mine and it will get reallocated if the candidate I choose is not the top pick, so my vote counts as long as I finish filling out my ballot. I will vote for Grace, Tom, Joe, Mary, Betsy, Nick. Ronald, Andrew, George, and then Jackie as my least favorite candidate. Great, I’m done and my vote will count no matter what.
Ranked voting is the easiest election system for voters to understand. You don’t have to be strategic, you vote for whoever you think is best, and your vote will count no matter what.The thought process is simple, you only have to worry about your personal preference, it doesn’t matter how your neighbor votes as long as you fill out your ballot your vote will count.
Also, congratulations Maine on maintaining Ranked voting. Hopefully another state will follow in your footsteps soon.