As a native Mainer who’s been following your remarks about the recent election, I’m curious to know if you have any particular thoughts about ranked choice voting.




Ah, ranked choice voting. I know it’s something that a lot election wonks like; it’s got certain advantages over first-past-the-post, but also certain drawbacks. (Arrow’s impossibility theorem is a harsh mistress.)

It’s used in a bunch of places, so it’s not intrinsically unworkable. When it comes to alternatives to first-past-the-post, I tend to prefer Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, but RCV seems fine. 

The biggest drawback to both ranked choice voting and mixed member proportional representation (I heart them both, but lean towards RCV) is that the electorate has to have a solid opinion on multiple candidates in multiple races or the whole thing just… doesn’t work. 

There’s “active and engaged citizens”, but then there’s “I have strong opinions on Federal Senator, Federal House member, State Senators, State Legislator, State Governor, Federal President, City Council member, Coroner*, School Board, Judge…”

That’s 11 offices, each of which might have 6 or 7 candidates to choose between. I’ve never heard of the phrase “democratic fatigue” to describe the inability to know or care who’s running for what, but I’d it’s a huge impediment to RCV once you’re past the level of 2 or 3 offices. 

*Yes, I’ve had to vote for coroner before. Because back in the robin hood days the coroner was a crown office and a check on the power of the sheriff- which was a local office. And somehow that tradition made it all the way out to California in the 2000s. 

In Australia at least the parties hand out how to vote pamphlets so if you only really care about one party winning you can just vote the order they tell you most benefits them.

American political parties also hand out slate cards, albeit usually in a FPTP context. I will say that in a lot of cases, the ballots aren’t designed to make it easy for people to do that. 

@publiusmaximus, the solution to that problem is party lists, which as a good social democrat I’m all for. It’s also the reason why non-partisan elections are a terrible idea in practice, because especially in those low information races like judges or water board or coroner, it’s removing an important piece of information that people can use to guide their judgements. 


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