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A Libertarian and Progressive Agree: This Reform Is Needed to Fix Elections

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

It kind of sounds like an odd pairing at first, no? A self-described "neo-libertarian" and a "progressive Democrat" join forces. Yet what they are advocating for is something most people will agree on: We need fairer elections.

Manu Koenig -- the "neo-libertarian" -- and Faisal Fazilat -- the "progressive Democrat" -- are two locals of Santa Cruz, California, who want their city to adopt ranked choice voting. It is reform that they say has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, among others.

“It’s an issue that both sides of the political spectrum can agree on—because, in the end, every side wants fair elections. Everyone wants it to be democratic,” says Fazilat. (Good Times, August 16, 2017)

How does ranked choice voting work? Here is a video that explains it and why advocates support it:

Here are a few things supporters say ranked choice voting can do:

  • Eliminate "strategic voting" or "lesser-of-two-evils" voting by allowing voters to rank multiple candidates by preference.
  • Eliminate the "spoiler effect," where voting for a candidate outside the two largest political parties runs the risk of skewing the results to the favor of a major party candidate the voter doesn't want in office.
  • Ensure the winner of elections has majority support. The choose-one voting method used in most jurisdictions in the US doesn't guarantee the winner will get over 50% of the vote if there are more than two candidates in the general election. Under RCV, instant runoff elections are conducted, eliminating the poorest performing candidates until a winner gets over 50 percent of the vote.
  • Create a more civil campaign environment, with less mudslinging, since candidates are no longer just fighting for a voter's single vote, but to be their second or even third choice -- so they will actually talk issues.

“Ranked choice voting would encourage candidates to actually talk about the issues that voters care about. This kind of system favors grassroots campaigns where candidates are going door-to-door. They’re talking with as many people as they can,” says Faisal Fazilat.

Read more about Manu Koenig and Faisal Fazilat and their grassroots effort to adopt ranked choice voting in Santa Cruz, California here.

Ranked choice voting is currently used in 11 cities, will be used in Memphis starting in 2019, and is the law of the land in Maine for statewide and non-presidential federal elections. Voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, approved ranked choice voting in 2008, but the city council has yet to implement its use in city elections.

Photo Credit: Steve Heap /

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