Arron Fowles used a fictional assortment of pizza to tell the JFK Club why he thinks ranked choice voting is far superior to a single-choice vote. In his analogy, a group of people were given a choice of pizza for an office party. Of the 16 who voted for four choices, mushroom and sausage were tied for the two top picks.
But when there was a “runoff” vote to decide between the two, only six of the 16 office workers voted, with mushroom winning with four votes. Because of this, the entire office was resigned to eating mushroom despite only a quarter of the office voting for it. Mr. Fowles used this example to illustrate one of the downfalls of single-choice voting, where he said fewer people decide important decisions.
Using a ranked choice system for this fictitious pizza party, neither a person’s first or second choice was able to garner a majority of nine votes. But because pepperoni received a combined majority of nine votes using all three choices, the office got to eat a pizza the majority of the office considered pleasing.
In real life, such a ranked choice system would avoid the need for runoff elections, the speaker said. Mr. Fowles listed the issues with runoff elections, citing issues people have with getting transportation, time off work, and lower awareness for a runoff than the primary election.
“It reduces negative campaigning,” said Mr. Fowles, who is program director for Ranked Choice Tennessee. “If you watch the Democratic primary, since you’re going against like-minded candidates, you can only vote for one choice, and they’re trying to get the edge on the other candidates.”
He said that if the City Council wanted to make ranked choice voting the system of choice in elections, they could do so if it was voted on. He told the JFK Club members that they could spread awareness of the system “through letters to the editor, and through contacting your state and city representatives.”
“There are different alternatives to ranked choice voting. Some have advocated the Netflix system where you rank things based on ‘stars,’” said Mr. Fowles, who admitted the system of ranked choice voting was hardly perfect. “There are other systems who help on that spoiler effect. But any system can be gamed.”
He emphasized the increased participation in ranked choice voting elections, saying that more people vote and more people run for office when choices are ranked. Along these same lines, this system gives third, fourth, and fifth party candidates a chance at winning an election.
“You can still bullet vote if you want to only pick one choice,” said Mr. Fowles when asked what a voter should do if there was only one candidate they liked. “That’s fine if you choose to do so, but you give up your own power by doing that.”