Political dysfunction is deeper and more pervasive than ever this presidential election year. Extremism, polarization, divisiveness, negative campaigning, voter alienation – it’s all there.

Ranked choice voting – a system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of their preference – is a tested, achievable way to improve elections and governance. With politics descending to new depths this presidential election cycle, it’s never been clearer that RCV is desperately needed.

The current plurality voting system is tailor made for a black-and-white world, in which everyone is either a Republican or a Democrat. Problem is, legions of American voters can’t be pigeonholed that way. A Gallup poll last year showed that some 43 percent of Americans identify as independents – and those voters are ill served by a system actively constricts choice.

This year we’re seeing candidates from outside the two parties running on major party tickets, rather than as third-party or independent candidates. Arguably, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have run as independents this year but elected to run under major parties to ensure media coverage and debate time and to avoid wearing the spoiler label.

Further, the absence of RCV in this year’s GOP primary race has practically ensured that the “winner” would emerge with just a small plurality of the vote. It’s also guaranteed highly divisive campaigns in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Time to retire the crude, outmoded, first-past-the-post system in favor of one that promotes choice, civility, compromise, and consensus winners. RCV accomplishes these outcomes.

To be sure, other reforms are needed as well – fixing campaign finance, opening debates, addressing gerrymandering, among others. RCV is one of several critical, far-reaching reforms whose time has come – but it may be one of the simplest to enact, with many existing successful blueprints to call upon, in Minnesota and beyond.

Jeanne Massey


Tim Penny


Editor’s note: Jeanne Massey is executive director of FairVote Minnesota. Tim Penny is president/CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

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