Is There a Better System Than Ranked-Choice Voting?

Dr. Know says: yes!

Aside from being the saving grace of WW, your column on ranked-choice voting (Dr. Know, WW, July 20) helped me decide how I was going to vote on the issue. I was afraid of the scenario you described, but I hadn’t thought it through yet. Keep doing what you’re doing! —Another Marty

I’m flattered that you found my words compelling enough to influence your vote, Another Marty. That said, it’s probably not the best idea to blindly follow someone’s advice just because they have the same first name as you. (Especially if your first name is Kanye.)

The column in question explained how ranked-choice voting can elevate extreme candidates at the expense of more broadly acceptable, middle-of-the-road aspirants. I didn’t mention RCV’s higher percentage of spoiled ballots due to voter confusion (these are Americans we’re talking about, after all), but that’s true, too.

However, I didn’t come here to slag on RCV again—and not just because I can see the upside in throwing out votes from people who can’t put the numbers 1, 2 and 3 in numerical order. No, as befits the constructive, forward-looking attitude for which I’m famous, I’m here to offer an alternative.

Seriously! It’s called approval voting, and it’s a favorite of election nerds everywhere, because it (mostly) delivers where RCV falls short. How does it work? You vote for every candidate you like.

That’s it. No rankings, no runoffs, no assigning each candidate a numerical score between 0 and 99*. If there are four candidates and you only like one, just vote for her. If there are three you find equally uninspiring and one you detest with apocalyptic fury, you can vote for all three “meh” candidates without having to worry about which one has the best chance of beating Ted Cruz. This method guarantees the winner will be the person the largest number of voters feels they can live with.

Spoiled ballots? Not when ticking the box for multiple candidates is what you’re supposed to do. Some may argue that this elects the least hated candidate, rather than the best loved, but let’s be honest: The main thing we love about our guy is how much the other side hates him. I’m willing to throw the dice on a world where that doesn’t work anymore.

*”Range voting.” Kill me.

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