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2018 Midterms

Nationwide Electoral Reform Efforts Gain Momentum as Support for Ranked Choice Voting Grows

States like Massachusetts are considering ranked choice voting in order to increase electoral diversity.

Duane Paul Murphy

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the members of the Voter Choice Massachusetts Advisory Board. 

The U.S. has a troubling record of not only low voter turnout, lack of access to register to vote, and voter suppression tactics, but also archaic electoral allocation systems. With single-member districts at the state and federal level, at-large districts at the local level, and winner-take-all plurality voting, representation for third-party candidates, non-partisan, and grassroots candidates are mostly left out at nearly every level of elected public office nationwide.

However, many states and individuals have seriously advocated or considered electoral reform policies that could expand more choices and voices in the country’s democracy.

In Massachusetts, a group of state and local politicians, as well as government reforms, are forming a growing coalition known as Voter Choice and are advocating for the legal statutory adoption of ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting. This is an advanced electoral allocation system in which candidates are numerically ranked and a winner is determined when a particular candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. If no single candidate gets more than 50% in the initial voting and if the first choice candidate does not make it, other choices are automatically counted for in an instant runoff.

Started after voters in neighboring Maine passed a ranked choice voting ballot initiative in 2016, Massachusetts has a Voter Choice group advisory board that includes former president of the liberal Common Cause Massachusetts chapter Pam Wilmot, former Massachusetts state and national Democratic Party chairman Steven Grossman, Boston entrepreneur Diane Hessan, Nobel economic laureate Eric Maskin, and former gubernatorial candidate for the liberal-centrist United Independent Party Evan Falchuk.

The group hopes to pass this system through the state legislature between 2018 and 2019. If they can not get it passed legislatively, they hope to get on the ballot in 2020.

Cities such as Cambridge have used ranked choice voting for local elections since 1941, and Amherst is planning to adopt this system by 2021. Last year, the Massachusetts State Democratic Party adopted support for the voting system to its official platform at their statewide convention.

Third party candidates running in liberal states are also sharing support for necessary electoral reform. Kash Jackson, a 39-year-old Navy veteran and Libertarian Party Illinois gubernatorial candidate, showed support for ranked choice voting and proportional representation. Jackson acted in response to a written statement on Facebook from the non-partisan Illinoisans for Ranked Choice Voting, a political advocacy group urging all gubernatorial candidates to support electoral reform for the state.

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Duane Paul Murphy is a D.C. college student and student journalist born and raised in Southern California. Currently studying for his bachelor’s in politics and a minor in media studies, Duane Paul is interested in covering domestic as well as international political affairs that impact the lives of everyday people, whether they are young students, professionals, or faculty in higher education.

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