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Feb 1, 2023 2 min read

PODCAST: Adding more (ranked) choice to our voting

PODCAST: Adding more (ranked) choice to our voting
Trenton Miller from FairVote WA (left), Marilyn Darilek from League of Women Voters and Luke Baumgarten from RANGE. (Photo by Valerie Osier)

Seems like there’s an election every year. Maybe we should make them better.

We’re back at you with a whole new podcast episode and it’s only been … five months? We’re still figuring out how to carve a sustainable podcast with all of our reporting work and limited staff, but we’ve missed you — and we know you missed Luke’s buttery podcast voice — so we have a special episode!

In November, we hosted our first-ever live podcast recording at the Central Library, where we got a panel together to talk about Ranked Choice Voting, and the attendees got to ask questions.

Marilyn Darilek from League of Women Voters Spokane and Trenton Miller from FairVote WA joined Luke on stage to explain the ins and outs of Ranked Choice Voting and share about the process to get it adopted in municipalities all over the state. We even held a mock Ranked Choice Vote election on quality seasonal pies.

Given how strongly people feel about pumpkin, apple and pecan, it was remarkably civil!

Real quick: what is Ranked Choice Voting?
In our current voting system, you get to place one vote for one person in any given election. Your only alternative to voting for one person is to vote for no one. Plenty of political scientists believe this system all but guarantees a two-party dominant system — and that is certainly how it has played out in America.

In ranked choice voting, though, as we’ll hear explained in detail, you get to pick several candidates in order from the person you like the most to the person you like the least. And if you loathe someone so much, you can just not rank them at all.

If your top choice has a chance of winning, that vote stays. If your top choice gets eliminated, your second choice gets your vote and so on, until one candidate has 50% plus 1 vote.

It’s up to each of us to decide if RCV is something we want to fight for, but at the very least we should recognize the shortcomings of our current system.

If you hear yourself saying “I like this person, but they can’t win, so I won’t vote for them” — then our system of voting is not working for you.

Of course that doesn’t mean your candidate will always win. But shouldn’t we have a system where the best thing you can possibly do as a citizen is say “I believe this is the best person to lead us, and that’s who I’m going to vote for?”

People who study ranked choice voting elsewhere believe that it leads to more pluralistic elections: there’s room for more parties and more political viewpoints when you can rank your favorites rather than voting for just one.

And even if the two parties stick around for a while, the immediate benefit of ranked choice voting is that you still get to have a vote be a truer and more nuanced representation of your opinion about a race — and therefore a more nuanced representation of how you think this city, this county, this state, this nation, ought to be run — without feeling like you’re throwing away your vote on a candidate who is too good to be elected.

The event went off without a hitch, and we look forward to doing many more.

MASSIVE THANKS to our guests Marilyn Darilek from League of Women Voters and Trenton Miller from FairVote WA, and our friends at the Spokane Public Library who made this event possible: Shane Gronholz, Vanessa Strange, Andy Rumsey and Jason Johnson.

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