How RCV Could Help Take Some of the Money out of Political Campaigns

Article excerpt

As Benjamin Franklin famously noted in 1789, "nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

If the Founding Father were alive today, that saying might be more appropriate if it included "death, taxes, and expensive political campaigns."

It's common knowledge today that political campaigns aren't considered viable unless they're able to raise and spend colossal amounts of money. In the 2012 presidential election, for example - between campaigns, committees, and Super PACs - both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cracked more than $1 billion (yes, billion!) spent trying to get elected.

Sure, money talks, but I think we can all agree that money wields far too large an influence in American politics these days. Just imagine how much good could be done - in the United States and around the world - with that kind of money.

So what can we do about it? Ranked-choice voting (RCV) may provide a solution.

With RCV, broad support is important

In a ranked-choice-voting election, winning the support of a broad group of voters - not just your own party's base - is crucially important. When candidates must earn voters' second- and third-choice votes in order to win, they can't risk alienating anyone. This means candidates spend a lot more time at forums, community events and knocking on doors - and much less time raising and spending money on crafting nasty attacks or slinging mud. There's no faster way to turn off voters than to be the candidate who's smearing your opponents instead of talking about the real issues.

And for those of us in Minnesota, we need look no further than 2013's Minneapolis mayoral election. The candidate who raised and spent the most money by a significant margin didn't ultimately win. Minneapolis isn't the only place where the biggest spender lost under RCV, either: The same result happened in Aspen, Colo., in 2009; in Oakland and San Leandro, Calif., in 2010; and in Portland, Maine, in 2011.

Could encourage more moderate positions

I'd even venture to suggest that, eventually, ranked-choice voting could encourage the major political parties to adopt more moderate positions reflective of the entire electorate, regardless of special interests or whoever is able to spend the most money. …