The small change being made right now to subvert the political fuckheads
Our current voting system asks: Who do you like?
But a new voting system gaining ground also asks: Who do you hate most?
Cities and states from Telluride to Maine are changing their political systems to this new one, which allows voters to articulate both their love and their rage.
This is called ranked choice voting, a boring name for a radical idea. Instead of making a single choice, voters rank everyone running for an office. Put a "1" by the person they really want. Rank last the person they'd like to throw a shoe at. In between they rank all the other turds.
In ranked choice voting, the winner is likely to be someone most people are kinda okay with. Not the extremist fuckheads we have now.
"I think it works well," said Geneva Idema Shaunette, town council member in Telluride, which has used ranked choice voting since 2008. "As long as the public understands how it works."
Ranked choice voting is, in fact, slightly complex. The way it works is, first-place votes are counted. If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, the person with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. The voters who chose that person don't have their votes thrown out, though. The system looks at who their second choice is, and adds those to the tally. The process repeats until someone has more than 50 percent.
This cheesy video explains:
"Politics is broken," said Linda Templin, head of ranked choice voting for Colorado. "This gets the toxic waste out."
There are plenty of examples of when ranked choice voting would have helped the electorate get what they wanted. In the 2000 presidential election, super-liberal Ralph Nader took votes away from Democrat Al Gore. With ranked choice voting, voters could have picked Nader first and Gore second. When Nader's second-place votes were given to Gore, he likely would have beaten George Bush Junior — probably the outcome America actually wanted.
Ranked choice voting is not a change that's likely to help only Democrats. In 1992, Texas crank Ross Perot took votes from Republican George Bush Senior. In ranked choice, voters could have put Perot first and Bush Senior second. And it's likely Bush Senior would have won a second term, beating Bill Clinton— again, probably what America wanted.
Look: we little people can't upend the whole democracy. But ranked choice is a small, doable change we can do in our own towns.
San Francisco, Maine, New Zealand and Ireland are among the dozens of places that have switched their systems. New York City will vote in November on whether to switch to ranked choice, a change supported even by political rivals. Massachussetts may vote on it in 2020.
What's more, with ranked choice, voters are free to choose who they actually, really like. This is especially handy in primaries. Take the Democratic primaries coming up. As it stands, voters may love a beautiful radical weirdo like Andrew Yang and his Free Money for Nothing. But they may vote for Biden so they don't throw their vote away. With ranked choice voting, there's no wasted votes. Voters could tell the world they adore Yang, or maybe Marianne Williamson and her love crystals and healing potions, but with their second-place vote they can let the party know they think Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden are the candidates who won't try to win our next war with glitter bombs.
A recent online national poll about the Democratic primary shows how ranked choice voting would effect things. See, Biden is leading in most regular polls. But is his centrist ways what Democrats actually want? In the ranked choice poll, put out by YouGov and FairVote, Biden didn't win in the end. Yes, for first place votes, Biden had 33 percent, Warren 29 percent and Sanders 20 percent. But when Sanders was eliminated, it turned out that most of Sanders' supporters' second choice was Warren. So when all votes were counted, Warren edged out Biden by 6 percent. Which is probably what Democrats want overall — someone more radical than Biden.
"You're always told, don't vote how you like, you'll break everything," said Templin. "Here, you can actually vote for who you really like."
Ranked choice voting is being used on a small scale, too, by little nonprofits and cooperatives. It makes intuitive sense. Templin says it's easy to convince young people that it's a good idea; older folks have a hard time wrapping their head aroung it. But by 2024 or 2028, ranked choice voting could end up being the norm. Advocates argue ranked choice voting will also increase turnout, because folks aren't crushed by having to choose between a shit sandwich and a giant douche.
“The current political duopoly operates with the thoughtfulness and grace of a shit-throwing fight between monkeys at the zoo," said Desmond Wallington, a volunteer with Colorado Ranked Choice Voting. The organization is working hard to bring ranked choice voting to more cities and towns in Colorado, including, hopefully, Denver.
America practically invented democracy 240 years ago. That's a great legacy. But, like any old computer OS, America is buggy, and it needs saving. "We have a system that got set up back when there was slavery," said Templin. "You gotta update things."
Without burning everything down, advocates say, ranked choice voting may be the best, most practical way for America to make its politics less insane — state by state, town by town.