Imagine how this election could have been different

  1. Today I dropped off my ballot in the Washington State presidential primary. We’re a vote-by-mail state, so hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians have already voted weeks ago. And now that the results are coming in, we see that over a third of the votes went to candidates who have already dropped out. Similarly, on Super Tuesday over a million votes were wasted on “zombie candidates”. Imagine, instead, if we had a system where you could vote your first choice, but then also indicate your second and third choices in case your preferred candidate dropped out before election day. Every voter would have a chance to have their voice heard in a way that matters, and no one would have their vote wasted simply because they voted too early.
  2. Another disappointment: Even though we’re less than half way through the primary season, which started out with a record number of impressive women and minority candidates, by the time Washington State gets to vote we’re left with just two white men as contenders. Is racism or sexism to blame for voters not giving any of these other candidates a chance? Or is it just that voters think that other voters will be racist and sexist? For example, polls show that “When asked about having a female president, Democrats and Independents are themselves comfortable with a female president (74%), but believe their neighbors are less accepting (33%).” So no, apparently voters aren’t that sexist, they just think that other voters are sexist, and so we end up with sexist results. Imagine, instead, if we had a system where voters could vote for who they really supported, instead of guessing what other voters are going to do. Would this year’s women and minority candidates have made it further in the race?
  3. Finally, unfortunately, it looks like the likely Democratic nominee will be chosen primarily by voters who care about the picking the candidate best able to beat Trump (again, based on their guesses on what other voters think) rather than picking a candidate who matches their values. This shows up again and again in the exit polls: “Biden’s support was consistently drawn Tuesday night from voters who put a higher priority on beating Trump than on agreement with the candidate’s policy positions.” Stop and think about that for a moment, and how bizarre that is. Can’t we agree that on a fundamental level, elections are supposed to be a chance to vote for candidates who have policies we agree with? And yet, in this primary election, Democratic voters are voting for someone they don’t fundamentally agree with, for fear of what will happen if they vote for who they really want. Imagine, instead, if we had a system that where we could vote for candidates who we actually like, and whose positions match our own, without the fear that our choice will cause our most disliked candidate to win? Imagine if we didn’t have to preemptively compromise before the general election, but instead had a system where strong candidates from all across the political spectrum could run at the same time, without worrying about stealing votes from one another?

These better elections need not exist only in our imaginations. There is a simple and proven system that can make these a reality: Ranked Choice Voting. If you’re as discouraged by this campaign as I am, please keep voting, keep fighting for whoever is the best candidate we have left, but then join me and FairVote to help bring Ranked Choice Voting to all our future elections, from President all the way down to our local city councils. Better elections are possible!

And please support candidates who support Ranked Choice Voting, and thank them for their belief that our democracy can always be better. Oh, and of the remaining candidates, do you know who is the only supporter of Ranked Choice Voting? You guessed it: Bernie Sanders. :)

Lead Cartographer at @stamen / election reformer @FairVoteWA / founder @LocalgroupBham. Maps, networks, visualization, code. 15 min of fame: @pop_vs_soda

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