The Yes/No vote is a very poor answer to our desire for democratic selection of leadership. Anyone who seriously considers their vote between candidates in an election soon finds themselves in a quandry: Should I vote for the candidate who seems to hold the same beliefs and values as I do - or should I vote for the candidate who could bring more jobs and prosperity to the region? One candidate may be very desirable because of his/her concern about global warming – while at the same time undesirable because they have previously received campaign donations from ExxonMobil – and yet again very desirable because of their stand on race and gender issues - while the opposing candidate may possess yet another conglomeration of desirable and less desirable attributes. The list of factors to consider goes on and on. But your vote is only a simple Yes/No!
How can we begin to represent the manifold considerations that go into the selection of a candidate with a one-bit answer? This sparse choice is further impoverished in a two-party system where there are only two candidates - and neither candidate may be satisfactory. A much more democratic mechanism, a better way to capture some of the complex considerations underlying the vote would be to select the winner according to the voters' preferences.
A vote between two disliked candidates is almost like no vote at all. A first step toward improving the value of our our vote would be to include more than two candidates. Then, the best way to decide between more than two candidates is through a system called Preferential Voting, also called Ranked Choice Voting. Here is how it works: A list of candidates is presented to each of the voters and they are asked to rank those candidates in the order of their preference. In this way each voter gets to apportion his or her vote to an entire range of candidates according to the preferences they have in mind. Now, if one candidate obtains more than half of all of the first-choice votes, that candidate wins. But if no candidate is the first choice of more than half of the voters then all of the votes cast for the candidate having the lowest number of top choices are removed from that candidate and redistributed to the top candidates according to how they are ranked in each voter's ballot. If this process does not result in any candidate receiving a majority of first choices, further cycles of redistribution occur until there is a winner with over 50 percent.
According to Wikipedia, this process is currently being used to select the president of India and the president of Ireland. Recently, Maine became the first state to pass laws implementing Preferential Voting, and the new system will apply to elections there for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. representative, state senate and state representative. We can see that such a voting mechanism should give voters a much more meaningful and powerful vote: any number of decision factors could be applied to a range of candidates, and each candidate given a rank according to how important each factor is to each voter. Maine has taken an important step toward improving their democracy – what if we could do the same in other states and in our national elections?