Letter: Rank Them

Letter to the Editor

The 2016 election of Donald Trump was a product of a winner-take-all system that can be gamed by moneyed interests and has resulted in other presidential failures, notably Presidents Clinton (impeached) and G.W. Bush (trillion-dollar Iraq war). All three candidates benefited from minority third parties drawing votes away from the pairwise most popular candidate. Clinton won because Independent Ross Perot, a billionaire businessman, drew votes away from business-friendly George H.W. Bush. George W. Bush won because Green Party candidate Ralph Nader drew pro-environment voters away from environmental champion Al Gore. Donald Trump won, in part, because Green Party candidate Jill Stein drew pro-environment votes from anti-coal champion Hillary Clinton. Our electoral system needs fixing to avoid electing leaders who represent only a minority of the voters. I propose Amendment XXVIII to the U.S. Constitution: “Election to federal office requires a candidate to receive a majority of the eligible votes cast in each state (for senate, president, vice president) or district (for congressional representative).” Federal elections would, therefore, require ranked-choice voting, where voters could list their second- and third-ranked choices, should their favored candidate not prevail. If no candidate wins a majority of the eligible votes on the first pass, the votes for the lowest vote-getter would get redistributed according to the voters’ second choices. If none of the remaining candidates received a majority of the votes on the second pass, the process would be repeated. Had this system been in place in 2000, Green Party voters could have listed Al Gore as their second choice and he would have won the electoral votes of New Hampshire and Florida on the second pass, thereby winning the election. Ranked-choice voting has been successful in Maine and San Francisco, yielding higher levels of voter satisfaction with both the electoral process and electoral outcome. With ranked-choice voting, minority third parties can attract more votes without voters fearing that their vote will be wasted. With ranked-choice voting, candidates are more civil in campaign debates, to avoid alienating third party voters whose second-place votes they may need ultimately to receive a majority of the votes.

William McCarthy