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Ranked choice voting must start now

Karen Hang / The SPOKE

By Mareska Chettiar, Photography Editor

It’s election season, and again, it’s Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The spoiler effect is when voting for a third party takes votes away from the major party closest in ideology, causing that party to lose votes. Because of this, voting for a third party is futile, and your vote will go to waste. Problems like this, as well as gerrymandering, have made voting in the United States difficult because the major candidate from each party is almost guaranteed the position of president.

States and counties across the U.S. should implement ranked choice voting, or instant runoff voting, as an alternative voting system to help combat this problem. Instead of the current system in Pennsylvania, which only allows voters to pick one candidate, ranked choice voting  allows people to rank candidates in order of preference. That way, people will not feel pressured to vote for the candidate they think will win but for the candidate they actually want.

After voters submit ballots in the ranked choice voting  system, the votes are tallied for the person’s first preference. The system then takes out the candidates with the least votes in that round. The process starts again, reallocating votes for the eliminated candidates to the ones who voters preferred next. When only two candidates remain, the one who has the most votes will be the winner, wasting no votes in the entire process.

With the ranked choice voting  system, people will be less susceptible to choosing the “lesser of two evils.” Even if their first choice is not elected, their second and third preferences still count as a vote.

Many states and counties have already adopted the process, such as Alaska, Maine, New York City and San Francisco. A poll by Alaskans from Better Elections, a nonpartisan nonprofit, stated that 85% of Alaskans found the ranked choice voting  system simple after using it during the state’s general election in 2020. Critics argue that it is expensive to implement and complicated for voters, but after the initial system change and instructing voters on how it works, the switch will heavily benefit our democracy.

Another reason the process is so heavily opposed is because it challenges our current hyper-polarized system. Political leaders do not want us thinking of another way to vote that could possibly boot them out of office — they want to keep us divided. Ranked choice voting  would make a clear majority every time, and that result could be undesirable for political figures like former President Trump, who tried to dispute the results of the 2020 presidential election through a violent insurrection.

As per a poll by Gallup, a global analytics and advisory firm, 37% of the U.S. population identify as moderate in their views. Thus, implementing a system that allows a fair chance to represent everyone’s voices — rather than just conservative or liberal — leads to a stronger democracy.

So, join your local interest groups and nonprofits like MarchOnHarrisburg and Election Administration Resource Center that advocate for ranked choice voting. This system can be the path to a healthy democracy but only if we fight for it.

Mareska Chettiar can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Mareska Chettiar
Mareska Chettiar, Co-T/E Life Editor
Mareska Chettiar is a junior and the Photography Editor of The Spoke. She looks over all photos that appear in the publication, and directs staff with photography equipment and technique. She often writes for the T/E Life and Opinion sections. She also has a published book of poetry and a small photography business.