By Emma Donahue and Linda S. Templin
September 25th, 2020
Some people in power aren’t comfortable sharing. They certainly don’t like neighbors all over the political map teaming up on the basis of shared values. Those shared values are fairness and that representatives ought to be accountable to the people.
There is already hand wringing and pearls being clutched at the idea of the townsfolk picking the mayor themselves. Something as self-evident at Ballot Issue 2E (Our Mayor-Our Choice) will be met with a deluge of excuses as to why you shouldn’t be free to vote for your own mayor.
The basics of 2E are this: Mayors in the future will be elected every two years to lead the City Council meetings and speak for the city. The mayor will be answerable to the people, not the council. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was selected as the voting method by the proponents because dozens of leading political scientists identify it as the best way to select a representative. That’s it.
The pick-one plurality voting method we use for most races is less popular than cable TV companies. Voters are fearful that by voting for their favorite candidate, they could split the vote and end up helping the candidate they like the least. In local races, fractured plurality wins happen all the time.
Additionally, consensus has not been demonstrated through a runoff (instant or otherwise) so the officeholders selected through that method are in a weak position. These outdated strictures of plurality keep people from speaking their truth and cut people out from connecting with what they really want. Generations of voting for the lesser of the two evils brought us to where we are today.
RCV elections free the voters to securely rank their choices. If no candidate has a majority, then there is an instant runoff until a consensus of the community is found. RCV is a powerful, systemic change that lets us find common ground. Political scientists like Larry Diamond at Stanford say that RCV can help break us out of our political “doom loop.”
Some people are not comfortable with this shift in politics-as-usual. Among the sound-bite tested objections brought forth by columnist Steve Pomerance is a conjecture about Burlington, Vt., presented as fact. This misleads the Boulder voters.
While it is a fact that a sore loser organized a repeal, it is also true that community activists there are fighting to get it back. The details in the scenario shared by Mr. Pomerance are entirely uncoupled from reality. This hypothesis that moderates lose in RCV has been rejected by peer-reviewed journals for more than 10 years. It is nonsense.
RCV has been used in the United States for more than 100 years. During that time, political scientists have run numerous studies. It is a fact that ranked choice identifies a winner that has the consensus of the majority.
We see over and over that winners tend to be candidates who can build coalitions and garner broad support. Often those are moderate candidates because, while an extremists have their fan bases, they are no one else’s second or third choices. When there is an instant runoff, the winner needs that kind of consensus support to build their win.
Mr. Pomerance suggested Approval Voting (AV) as an alternative. This novel method was used for the first time in Fargo, N.D., in June 2020 and fell flat. Triton Polling called Fargo voters and found that a significant number had gamed that voting method by bullet voting, just like the experts said they would. Endless unfocused debates over voting methods which exclude political scientists are a roadblock thrown up by people uncomfortable with change as a way to weaponize paralysis by analysis.
Leaders like U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives KC Becker point to ranked choice as the best way to to build a more perfect union together. There are some interests that don’t want the people to have that power.
Don’t be fooled: Of course it is better to elect the mayor. If you want more voice in local matters, vote “yes” on 2E for democracy.
Emma Donahue is the political director for RCV for Colorado. Linda S. Templin is the executive director for RCV for Colorado.