This November 3, voters have the opportunity to increase our electoral voice through passage of Question 2 on ranked choice voting. While new to Massachusetts, ranked choice voting has been used over the years in many local and state elections, including neighboring Maine. It simply means more choice, more voice, more democracy.
But once passed, we need to go further. Since it improves choice only on state and local levels, it leaves untouched the significant vote for president, a vote that would help define a much-needed united national vision.
Without ranked choice voting for the presidency, we continue being limited to choosing between two parties with one a winner, one a loser, dividing us with no way for voters to declare which candidate they’d vote for as their second choice. Over the past few decades, it’s meant an election covered by mainstream media as if it’s a horse race rather than a deliberative choice and competition of ideas. It has led to a fractured electorate often swayed by emotion, not fact.
Loss of faith in a fair and open election process is leaving our democracy weaker, less representative, less trustworthy. It’s also discouraged voting for third parties that may have substantial appeal and offer good ideas but whose votes are characterized as either a threat to electing the lesser of two evils or as a lost vote.
It shouldn’t be that way. Ranking choice would allow more deliberation, more inclusion, possibly even leading the “winner” to consider and incorporate these other voices and views into their own programs. As part of our election process on all levels, it makes democracy broader and deeper.
But even universal ranked choice voting doesn’t alter the ultimate culprit in our presidential election, the outmoded Electoral College. Beyond any other obstacle to a fair election and a people united by the results of a national popular vote, the anti-democratic Electoral College destroys the legitimacy of one person, one vote. It destroys the sense of unity and equality of “We The People” and destroys a national vote that can define a vision of who we are as a country. “Hidden in plain sight,” this slave-based institution has finally created an autocrat wannabe and can again.
Like other corrupt electoral practices of 21st century America, including gerrymandering, we need to fix it. Ranked choice voting is definitely a step forward and hopefully, voters will support it. But once passed and after the elections are decided, the real work remains to rebuild our sense of democracy, community and trust.
Old Main Road