The Record

Voting: Can we fix it? Yes we can!

Solomon Katz, Columnist

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Following the 2016 election, the discrepancy between the victors of the electoral vote and popular vote raised questions regarding the ethics of our voting system. Within 24 hours, one petition calling for the dissolution of the electoral college had amassed a quarter of a million signatures. Many of us have also doubted the electoral college – we are not the first to have this gut reaction.

2016 was the fifth election in which a candidate lost regardless of winning the popular vote; the most recent prior to 2016 being Gore’s loss to Bush in 2000. However, in the last 200 years, 700 proposals to reform or eliminate the electoral college have been shot down in Congress, despite a majority of public support for reform since 1967.

Changing the electoral system is nearly impossible because few congresspeople are willing to vote in favor of the required constitutional amendment. They fear upsetting their respective political parties, which support the current electoral system they control.

Even so, the question still remains: was there a realistic way the voting process could have been improved for a fairer result in 2016?

The answer to that question is yes. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has become increasingly popular across the country, and nonpartisan polling company Civis Analytics has shown that Clinton would have become president if RCV had been nationally adopted.

The RCV system requires voters to rank all candidates in order on their ballot. The worst performing candidates are then eliminated, and votes for those candidates are distributed to higher performing candidates using the rankings voters provided.

It’s true there are plenty of reasons not to vote, from Election Day falling on a Tuesday to the difficulties of making it through long lines or even getting registered in the first place. But all these problems pale in comparison to the fact that 46% of non-voters choose to abstain because they believe their votes do not matter.

In 2016, the US ranked among the lowest 10 developed countries in terms of voter turnout, with only 55.7% voting in the presidential election. This shamefully low rate of participation was not specific to this particular election, as voter turnout has been stagnant for the past 40 years.

Our voting system needs to change to restore Americans’ faith in voting and end this 40 year trend.

RCV is intended to be a more utilitarian, representative process that addresses voters’ fears of their votes not mattering or counting. Although there is not complete consensus among political scientists about implementing RCV, all agree our current system is broken.

Since the 2000 election, 10 cities have implemented RCV, and since the 2016 election, five additional cities have implemented RCV as well as the entire state of Maine. The steady national push to implement RCV is not without resistance, however. In seven other cities, such as  Sarasota, Florida, RCV has been officially adopted in the legislature, but secretaries of state have refused to implement RCV and therefore halted the voting reform process.

This fall’s mid-term elections will provide a new opportunity to remove these obstacles preventing RCV’s expansion. Many governors’ terms will expire, including Governor Rick Scott of Florida. New governors will be elected, who will then appoint new secretaries of states.

States and cities across the country need to first prove they can successfully implement RCV for it to be considered nationally.

But by the time 2020 rolls around, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of election do we want to participate in?

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Voting: Can we fix it? Yes we can!