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Marin Voice: Ranked-choice voting would ensure all ballots matter

Leonardo Olivotti :: Marin Independent Journal

Ranked-choice voting will change the way we vote forever. It will make elections more fair for third-party candidates and other candidates on the fringes of the main parties.

The reason I want ranked-choice voting to be the way we vote is because of the last election. There were some very good third-party candidates. But they were overshadowed by the top Democratic and Republican candidates pushed for by the parties. With this kind of voting, people will have a stronger voice rather than being forced to pick a candidate pushed on them.

Ranked-choice voting is exactly what it sounds like: When you choose three candidates, you rank them from first to third. If one candidate wins the majority of the vote (50%), the race is finished. If no one wins the majority of the vote, then it moves on to the rank totals. The candidate who receives the fewest votes is eliminated and that person’s votes are given to voters’ second-choice pick. In the end, the person with the majority of votes wins. With this process, your vote always matters. Right now, the person with the most votes wins.

Ranked-choice voting, I believe, creates a more fair election process. It also eliminates a lot of unfair things that can negatively impact an election.

“We believe our government should be of, by, and for the people,” reads the statement on the FairVote.org website. “The way we vote limits our choices for leaders and fails to hold them accountable to the communities they represent. We need a way to elect candidates who represent the will of the people. The best ideas should decide who wins, not the biggest bank accounts or outdated electoral rules.”

The way we vote now with the Electoral College is very polarizing. Polarization makes elections more predictive and usually ends in the win of one of the candidates by a landslide. It is polarizing to third-party candidates because they get shut out of the process and it eliminates them having a good chance of winning.

When people feel like their vote doesn’t matter when choosing a good candidate, it is understandable that they tend to not vote in important elections. Right now, we are risking the alienation of millions of voters who participated last year.

Gerrymandering is another factor that would be addressed with ranked-choice voting. Gerrymandering happens when the electoral boundaries are manipulated to favor one party. It can also be used to help or hinder other demographic groups based on race, religion or class. Politicians end up being able to pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians.

Unfair representation in elections can happen in the media as well. Sometimes it seems that only the primary candidates get air time. Without ranking the choices, it makes it so third-party voters don’t even really count. It makes it so the majority of voters have less choice in exploring other options. It also leads to fewer candidate choices each year as voters are forced to pick between two candidates instead of having voter freedom.

“If your vote cannot help your top choice win, your vote counts for your next choice,” reads another quote from FairVote.org.

With broader ranked-choice voting implementation, voting can change for the better for future generations. It will also encourage people to vote third party or independently because they won’t have to fear that they are “wasting” their vote. This will make it so people can truly have a voice in picking the best candidate.

Instead of sacrificing ideals to vote for someone who has a chance of winning, ranked-choice voting will allow people a broader spectrum of candidates. Voters can rank candidates so, no matter how they vote, their vote carries weight and won’t be lost in the process.

There are a few ways to get involved in ranked-choice voting. There are tons of websites to sign petitions to get ranked-choice voting in the next election, including FairVote.org. If you like the idea, tell the Marin County Elections Department.

Ranked-choice voting can change the future of voting and the way we think about elections.

Leonardo Olivotti is an eighth grader at Lagunitas Middle School. He submitted this as part of his Change Project assignment.

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