Nothing to fear from ranked choice voting (Guest viewpoint)
Nicole LaChapelle and David Narkewicz :: masslive
Pick any two Mayors in Massachusetts and chances are they might not be elected in exactly the same way. Take a look at us: Easthampton skips preliminary election for Mayor and City Council. Cities like Northampton and Boston have both a preliminary and a general. And other Mayors across the state are elected by their City Council, who in turn are elected in a dizzying combination of ways.
Democracy has never been one size fits all. We’ve always recognized that there are different avenues to achieve the same ideals.
As voters feel increasingly exhausted by unprecedented levels of partisanship, money in politics, and leaders elected with barely 20 percent of the vote, more and more communities are turning to a common-sense improvement to our democracy: ranked choice voting. Now, Massachusetts has an opportunity to enact the same reform by voting ‘yes’ on Question 2 on this year’s ballot.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a commonsense change that would give voters the option to rank candidates for state and federal office in the order they prefer. This change would strengthen voters' voice when they cast ballots, guaranteeing that elected leaders have a true majority of support.
Municipalities have been leading on this effort, but the benefits shouldn’t stop at City Hall. Cambridge has used a form of Ranked Choice Voting for nearly 100 years. In Easthampton, we voted to adopt Ranked Choice Voting to elect our Mayor and district-level councilors starting in 2021. Northampton is taking a look at it as well. And we hope our local system is complemented by a statewide change.
Critics of the ranked choice measure have claimed it complicates elections and will set off mass confusion among voters. Voters do not need to count the ballots; they simply need to rank their choices. It’s really as simple as making things, “1, 2, 3.” Moreover, this argument doesn’t give voters enough credit. An exit poll after Maine’s 2018 general election showed that 60 percent of respondents were in favor of keeping or expanding the use of RCV and a League of Women Voters poll after the same election found that over 90 percent of Mainers reported their experience was either “excellent” or “good.” Among voters in Minneapolis, who have been using RCV since 2009, 92 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by Minneapolis City staff said they find voting with RCV “simple.”
RCV is simple to implement and could prove to be a great new innovation for the American experiment. When one considers that 61 percent of Americans believe significant changes need to be made to the design and structure of government, there is an obvious misalignment between voters and their representatives that is in desperate need of repair.
RCV can be a starting point to weld these deep rifts by ensuring the majority of Americans are satisfied with their leaders. We aren’t the only elected officials in the Commonwealth who support this, almost the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation supports the reform and mayors across MA are solidly on board.
More universal representation would more closely align the will of voters with the agenda of those who represent us in government. Candidates would need broader appeal and could no longer use division and pandering to campaign and govern their base of supporters. RCV would also increase the probability of winning for women and candidates of color. But most of all it would guarantee that public officials elected to represent us are those who can achieve the maximum universal appeal of their constituents.
Nicole LaChapelle is Mayor of Easthampton. David Narkewicz is Mayor of Northhampton.
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