Submitted by Jonathan Perloe, Cos Cob
For the past 30 months I have co-led Voter Choice Connecticut, the grassroots movement working to bring Ranked Choice Voting to state and federal elections in Connecticut.
I’ve dedicated my time to the pursuit because RCV does a superior job of electing candidates who best represent the electorate, compared to our current plurality voting method, where the candidate with the most votes wins, even if a majority of voters prefer other candidates.
We’re likely to see in real-time, in the 36th district State Senate special election, one of the key pitfalls of plurality voting: the “spoiler” effect.
This occurs when a third-party candidate with little chance of winning alters the outcome of the race. Seeing he had no chance to secure the Democratic nomination, John Blankley withdrew from consideration and instead announced he would petition his way onto the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, challenging the Democratic-endorsed candidate Alexis Gevanter, and whomever Republicans nominate as their candidate on July 10.
Blankley’s choice will put some voters in an untenable position: if they vote for him, they are likely “throwing their vote away” for a candidate with little chance of winning, while possibly causing the candidate they least prefer to get elected. Because in an RCV election voters rank the candidates in the order they prefer them; it frees voters to express their true preferences without fear of electing the candidate they like least. If their first-choice candidate is eliminated, their second-choice comes into play, so they still have a say in who wins.
Some may argue that Blankley isn’t a spoiler, that he is competitive with Gevanter. If so, it will reveal a second flaw in plurality elections: vote-splitting. Gevanter and Blankley are much closer ideologically than either are to whomever the GOP candidate will be. In this scenario, it’s very possible a majority of voters will split their votes between the two progressive candidates, allowing the conservative to be elected with only a minority of the ballots cast.
That can’t happen in an RCV election. If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the second choices of that candidate’s voters are transferred to the remaining candidates. This continues until one candidate emerges with a majority of votes.
I advocate for RCV because voters deserve more choices, they should be able to vote their true preferences without fear of unintended consequences, and candidates shouldn’t be discouraged from running for fear of helping to elect the candidate who they least favor.
Unfortunately for now, we’re stuck with the downsides of plurality elections, which is why John Blankley should drop out of the race. He has little chance of winning (evidenced by his withdrawal from the Democratic nominating convention), and a real likelihood of throwing the election to a candidate who isn’t preferred by a majority of voters. That’s not good for our democracy, something I know John cares deeply about. Please John, don’t be a spoiler.
Jonathan Perloe, Cos Cob