Isabel Tarnutzer ’21: In modern American politics, the two party system reigns supreme.  Each election, the two central political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, fight over which of them will control the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, and sometimes the Supreme Court. Since 1852, these two parties have won every single presidential election. This back-and-forth struggle for power remains a constant throughout each election cycle no matter how qualified the candidate is. Such domination between the two parties begins to result in detrimental consequences for the overall democratic process our nation holds so sacred. Some citizens begin to argue that the parties have become “lazy” and no longer focus on providing well-qualified candidates with the nation’s best interests in mind. Instead, elections have shifted into simply a fight over which party holds more power over the nation.

This monopolization of our nation’s highest position prompts the question; “why do citizens not elect a third party candidate into office?”. The answer to this remains relatively simple, but disheartening. Imagine you identify as a Republican, voting in a presidential election; however the Republican Party candidate would not be considered your number 1 favorite. Now let’s say that you really like the Libertarian Party’s candidate. While you may want to vote for the libertarian candidate you understand that the democrat population maintains a united front in voting for the Democratic Party’s candidate. This means that were you to vote for the libertarian candidate, overall votes will be removed from your second favorite candidate, the Republican candidate. This maintains a slim likelihood of either of your favorite candidates would win, as the conservative population would be split amongst two candidates.

This dilemma of either staying true to your candidate and splitting your party votes, or sacrificing your favorite candidate for the sake of having someone of at least similar ideology in office has forced the two party system to grow into a parasitic monster feeding off the political divide. There has become an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction when considering the political atmosphere of our nation. This dissatisfaction prompted the discussion of rank choice voting. 

Time gave a clear definition of what rank choice voting means:

“Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system that allows people to vote for multiple candidates, in order of preference. Instead of just choosing who you want to win, you fill out the ballot saying who is your first choice, second choice, or third choice (or more as needed) for each position. The candidate with the majority (more than 50%) of first-choice votes wins outright. If no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, then it triggers a new counting process. The candidate who did the worst is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters’ ballots are redistributed to their second-choice pick,” Anna Purna Kambhampaty said. 

This means that voters could place their favorite candidate, third party or not, as their number one without fear of taking away votes from other similar candidates. This method of democracy has become a popular idea amongst some citizens. The system has gained so much traction, in fact, that Maine adopted rank choice voting starting in its June 12, 2018 primary election. The change to RCV, otherwise known as instant-runoff voting, has been met with many high praises from its citizens, claiming that it allows them to feel more confident in their voting. Despite this praise, the system was also met with backlash from other citizens, who claimed that the system will begin to force heavy reliance on independent voters and their opinions during each election cycle. 

While independent voters may become more important if RCV became a nationally applied practice, whole elections would not rely on their votes. Instead, parties would have to work harder to appeal to citizens in order to ensure a majority win. Independent voters would simply enforce the ensurity of a well-rounded candidate that reflects the ideals of the majority of the nation, rather than becoming the deciding factor.

With the extreme political polarization, and two party dominance within our country, the call for change becomes an increasing necessity. Rank choice voting offers not only a chance for third party candidates to be placed in high ranking elected positions, but it also gives voters greater confidence in both democracy, and the candidates they decide to vote for.

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