Opinion: Looking at the benefits of ranked-choice voting

Recently, a coalition of non-partisan organizations has launched a petition to get ranked choice voting on the ballot, allowing the people of Idaho to decide how they want to choose their political leaders and representatives.

Despite my position, I’ve never been a fan of the two-party system (although two competitive parties would be an upgrade in Idaho). President George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation, specifically warned against falling prey to a party-dominated approach to politics — and he’s been proved correct about the outcome.

Any super-majority comes with it the potential for abuse of power and a desire to strip rights away from the citizens. Our Legislature the past few sessions has been a good example of this issue. Many legislators continue to push bad policies to solve made-up problems rather than focusing on our true challenges and issues. In this last session, we saw a floor debate in which the sponsor of one of the bills didn’t even know what was in the bill. Her own bill.

The two-party system and the resultant super-majority in our state have led to disappointing outcomes that do more harm for the citizens of Idaho than good.

Ranked choice voting has the potential to change that. The idea is simple — you look at a ballot and rank the candidates from most desirable to least. The Campaign Legal Center explains the outcome this way:

“If a candidate is the first choice of more than half the voters, that candidate wins the election. But if no candidate gets the majority of the vote, the candidate with the least amount of support is eliminated, the second-choice votes for that eliminated candidate are redistributed, and this process continues until a candidate wins more than half of the vote.”

Another good resource to learn about ranked-choice voting is an episode of “Patriot Act” with Hassan Minhaj.

Research into elections that use ranked-choice voting indicates several benefits associated with this method:

— Increases the chances that winners have broader support across political leanings rather than focusing on those that cater to a more extreme “base.”

— Fosters higher participation rates, as voters feel more empowered. Our current system leaves many feeling disenfranchised and hopeless and as a result, feel like their vote won’t matter. Ranked choice voting tends to offer more hope that votes do matter.

— One study suggested that ranked-choice voting encouraged more positive campaigning about ideas important to constituents. Additionally, there was a greater perception of civility in elections that used ranked-choice voting.

— Save tax dollars by eliminating the need for a primary. Primaries are generally low turnout and unrepresentative.

In the last general election, only about 36% of eligible voters decided the District 33, Seat A race. Our current system isn’t working and isn’t representative. Ranked choice voting, as it’s been tried in other places around the country, offers us a chance to break the duopoly and potentially see leaders who are prepared to truly represent us.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized speaker, writer, podcaster and author. She is the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.