Ranked-choice voting is good, actually

Editorial Board :: The Bowdoin Orient

By Editorial Board

October 23, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

Over recent weeks, a debate has erupted in the Orient opinion pages on the merits of ranked-choice voting (RCV). A series of competing op-eds and letters to the editor have argued that the increased turnout among disillusioned voters due to RCV could do one of two things: help Joe Biden gain support from unlikely voters who will rank him second, or hurt Biden by dampening enthusiasm or even creating the possibility of a third-party win.

In response, we would like to emphatically state that any electoral reform allowing for a more honest representation of a voter’s political beliefs is a good thing. We’d also like to remind our readers that it is not reckless for people to support the candidate they feel most closely matches their ideals; rather, it is a cornerstone of what it means to be an American voter.

This is exactly why RCV is such an excellent reform—it allows voters to support the candidate they believe in, a right that is enshrined in the constitution, while not sacrificing their influence in the undemocratic system of the Electoral College.

Maine will make history as the first state to use RCV in a presidential election. RCV will also be used in the hotly-contested senate race between Sara Gideon and incumbent Susan Collins, as well as in the state’s two congressional races.

RCV allows third-party voters to select and support the candidate most aligned with their values without having to fear that their vote will be lost. Under her current “Rank Lisa First” campaign, Maine Green Independent Party Senate candidate Lisa Savage is encouraging voters to rank her first and her competitor, Sara Gideon, second. This allows Savage to run on an eco-socialist platform while not handing the election to the GOP. In fact, by encouraging some progressives who might not otherwise vote at all under a two-party race to rank her first and Sara Gideon second, Savage is likely helping Gideon’s chances, even while running against her.

In further evidence that RCV will not harm Biden’s chances of carrying the state of Maine, the GOP has invested considerable resources in fighting its implementation. It argued at the Maine Supreme Court that RCV was an unconstitutional reform, and, earlier this year, it attempted to stage an emergency “people’s veto” to prevent RCV from being used during this presidential election. The Maine Supreme Court later denied the action due to an insufficient number of valid signatures.

Few elections have held as much significance as the presidential race facing us this year. Voters are rightfully concerned that their vote may not be counted when the stakes are higher than almost ever before. But let’s elect to use our power this November. As voiced previously in the opinion section, many students may not be fully enthralled with Biden, but they do not want to see another term of the current administration. For students who want to show their support for third-party candidates, we encourage you to vote according to your values. Those of us who are voting in Maine have the unique freedom of being able to do so responsibly—let’s use it.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Tess Davis, Julia Jennings, Diego Lasarte, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay and Ayub Tahlil.

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