By Corey Johns.
The last three election cycles – 2016 presidential, 2018 midterm, and the current 2020 presidential – the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Maryland have both been faced with huge lists of candidates for a primary election, yet voters could only select one candidate as their vote.
In 2016, Republican primary ballots in some states featured 12 candidates. In 2018, Maryland Democrats had to choose between nine candidates for governor. Now, in 2020, there will be several candidates for Democrats to choose from for a presidential candidate in the primary election. Despite 14 candidates having withdrawn from seeking the nomination as of January 24, 12 candidates are still in the race.
Also coming in 2020 in Maryland is a special election for the Congressional seat in District 7 that will feature 24 candidates on the ballot on February 4.
The challenge with having so many candidates with the current election process is voters must decide on one and only one candidate to support at the ballot box. While candidates do have their differences, generally, candidates of the same party have a lot of overlapping plans and policies, and multiple candidates could and do appeal to a single voter. It is not fair to ask that single voter cast a vote for just one person, with any other candidate they might also support coming up empty.
Ranked Choice Voting offers the solution.
Ranked Choice Voting is exactly what it sounds like. When there are more than two candidates, voters may rank in order the candidates they support. If a Maryland Democratic voter in 2018 liked the policies of more than just one of the candidates for governor, all of those candidates could have received some sort of support from that voter. Maybe it could have altered who the nominee would have been.
Whether Ben Jealous would have been the Democratic nominee or not with Ranked Choice Voting does not matter to the conversation. The fact, though, is he was named the nominee with only 39.6-percent of the vote in the primary election. Over 60-percent of voters decided through the process we have now that he was not their top choice of candidates, yet he went on to represent the entire Party. Ranked Choice Voting requires a candidate have a majority of votes to be declared the winner of the election.
Additionally, Ranked Choice Voting promotes positive campaigning and voting for the favorite candidate rather than against the least desired candidate. A poll by Rutgers University with Ranked Choice Voting found that voters in seven cities were more likely to support positive campaigns. Candidates launched fewer attacks on opponents and focused more on their positive vision.
In jurisdictions with Ranked Choice Voting, compared to winner-take-all elections, more women and ethnic minorities win elections by being able to be more representative of historically under-represented groups or championing more under-represented causes. In San Francisco, Ranked Choice Voting increased voting turnout of ethnic minorities and women by nearly three times as when it elections were winner-take-all.
Ranked Choice Voting provides voters with more options. It is very unlikely that once single candidate entirely represents everything a single voter stands for, but Ranked Choice Voting gives voters the ability to support more than just once single person. Ranked Choice Voting in at least primary elections would be a benefit to voters in Maryland and should be considered by the State Legislature.