The 2018 election will be vital for many reasons. It will be the first major election since the 2016 Presidential Election, allowing voters to vent their feelings on President-elect Donald Trump’s first two years in office. It will also be critical for the future of the House of Representatives, because many of the Governors who have a say in redistricting after the 2020 census will be elected. The Democrats will also face a tough challenge in taking back the Senate with many Senators up for re-election in states won by Donald Trump. This is especially troublesome for Democrats as straight ticket voting was huge in 2016 with Senate races closely following presidential results across the union. 2018 will feature something else huge though that has not really been discussed, the first ever statewide election to use ranked choice voting in an election.
In 2016, voters in Maine narrowly approved a ballot initiative that implemented ranked choice voting. Ranked Choice Voting is a voting system in which voters rank the candidates running for office instead of being forced to choose one candidate. This will be especially useful in Maine, a state where Independent Senator Angus King will likely face both a Republican opponent and a Democratic opponent. In Maine’s ranked choice system, if a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then that candidate is automatically elected. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and that candidates second choice votes go to the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until a candidate reaches 50% of the vote.
Ranked Choice Voting has many advantages over First-Past-The-Post, the system currently used in all 49 other states. Ranked Choice Voting eliminates the problem of spoilers. Spoilers happen when voters vote for a candidate that they agree with a lot, but usually end up with the candidate that they detest the most winning because the candidate that they agree with somewhat ends up losing because of the spoiler. The spoiler effect is one reason that third parties do poorly in America, the major parties can scare voters in to supporting them out of fear for the other party, not support for their party. Think about the last Presidential Election. Many Americans did not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but rather voted against them by voting for the other candidate.
Ranked Choice Voting is currently used in Australia and serves as a model for what the United States could adopt on a wider scale in the future. In the United States there are only two political parties with real influence on government. It has been over 150 years since the last President who was not a Republican or a Democrat. Additionally, the entire House of Representatives is Republican or Democrat. The entire Senate is too, except for two Senators who are forced to caucus with parties for committee assignment purposes. To contrast this, seven political parties are represented in the Australian House of Representatives, where ranked choice voting is used.
Maine is the first state to take a major step forward for democracy in the United States. Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo and with both major political parties. One of the issues is that the United States is a diverse country. There are over 320 Million people in the United States, two options for are future is too few. Much of the political dissatisfaction is caused by the fact that people don’t feel like candidates represent them or what they believe. With ranked choice voting and more choices in politics, this problem can be solved.