Insight News

Feb 09th

Area organization calls for ranked choice voting statewide

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david-gergenIn what supporters say will give the voter a greater voice in election outcomes, growing calls are being made for ranked choice voting.

Ranked choice voting is a system where voters, while at the polls, rank candidates in order of preference as opposed to voting for only one candidate. Candidates who rank lowest would be weeded out and those who supported dropped candidates would have their votes go to the next highest ranked candidate on their ballots. No candidate will be proclaimed the winner until he or she has more than 50 percent of the vote.

"The last Minnesota governor to win a race with a majority of the vote was 1994," said Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota. "Don't blame the Democrats; don't blame the Republicans – blame the system. If we want different results, we've got to change the rules."

Massey said FairVote is supporting state legislation to mandate ranked choice voting in all statewide elections. According to FairVote, ranked choice will eliminate so-called spoiler candidates and single-issue candidates because they would be weeded out almost immediately. Massey said negative campaigning would all but cease.

"There'd be much less negative campaigning because candidates wouldn't want to alienate supporters of another candidate," said Massey.

Massey said the true benefits of ranked choice voting will be revealed in November with the Minneapolis mayoral election. Minneapolis has adopted the system for its citywide elections.

Recently, FairVote hosted an event for about 100 people to tout ranked choice voting. The event, held inside the downtown Minneapolis offices of Fredrickson & Byron P.A., featured ranked choice voting supporter and CNN political pundit, David Gergen. Gergen said changing the system is needed to eliminate the polarity in today's politics.

"Today we're so polarized we call it hyper-partisanship," said Gergen. "This is not the first time in this nation we've been here. The only other time we were so polarized that we could not function was the 1850s, and look were that got us. We've had a model that's worked for quite a long time, but we've reached a strategic inflection point and we need to develop new strategies."

Gergen, who is a former presidential advisor who served under Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, said ranked choice would force politicians to campaign and govern from the middle out as opposed to from either the far right or far left.

"We've got some wackos who are trying to run this thing from the end zone on each side," said Gergen.

Though a proponent of ranked choice voting, Gergen said it alone will not fix what he called a broken political system. Gergen blamed gerrymandering for causing much of the gridlock in Washington D.C. According to the Harvard University graduate, in 1992 there were 120 House districts that were considered swing districts. He said today that number is down to 35 because of gerrymandering when redistricting occurs.

"What that means is if you're a Republican in a safe district, you're more worried about a challenge from the right, not from the Democrats," said Gergen. "So the reality is (Republican Congressmen) have no incentive to cooperate with President Obama. It's in their best interest not to cooperate."

Gergen, who spoke for about 30 minutes, also called for campaign finance reform and addressed various state voter ID laws.

"There's a lot to be done," said Gergen. "Part is about process, but part is about culture. How do we change the culture of American politics?"

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