Published in Commonwealth Magazine, March 10, 2020
VOTERS ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS approached last week’s presidential primary with different views on whom to support and what issues are most critical to address this election season. Yet many shared a common emotion: frustration at a system that stifles their voice by giving them only one choice, especially with over a dozen on the ballot.
This was especially problematic for some of the 190,000 voters who cast their ballots early in the Democratic primary. Three candidates – Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer – dropped out of the race after early voting closed but before Tuesday. More than 60,000 voters cast ballots for one of these candidates, with those who voted early seeing their vote essentially forfeited.
Even with the field narrowed by Election Day, many wrestled with difficult decisions about how to use their one choice. Should they back the candidate they like best or would that just help their least favorite candidate? What’s the most strategic vote? Many remained undecided until the last minute, hoping for guidance from the latest opinion polls. According to exit polls, more than half of those voting on Tuesday didn’t decide on a candidate until that day or just a few days before.
Voters in other states and in other democracies around the world know there is a better way: ranked choice voting.
With ranked choice voting, voters aren’t forced to choose a single candidate. Instead, when there are multiple people running, voters are given the option to rank candidates in the order they prefer them – first, second, third, etc.