This opinion column was submitted by David Kladney, a Reno lawyer who serves on the US Commissioner for Civil Rights. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission.
Subject: “Preferential choice voting is a ploy to keep politicians in power”, September 4:
In August, John Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and my fellow commissioner at the United States Civil Rights Commission (USCCR), wrote an article urging Nevadans to vote against Nevada’s Question 3 in November. He criticized preferential voting as “a ploy to keep politicians in power.” As commissioner of the USCCR, and a Nevadan who has practiced law here for 25 years, I feel compelled to tell you that is not true.
Adams argues that ranked choice voting denies voters the right to vote for one of two finalists in a head-to-head race. It is misleading. In preferential voting, voters list the candidates in order of preference. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the first-choice votes, they win. If no candidate meets this threshold, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and voters who voted for that candidate have their second-choice votes counted instead. This process continues until a candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes. In other words, voters still retain one vote in preferential choice voting, and by ranking all their preferences, they are guaranteed that their vote will continue to count in choosing the eventual winner of the election. I encourage voters to educate themselves about preferential voting so they can make an informed decision.
Rank voting allows voters to truly choose candidates based on their positions on the issues that best match their own; not the rigid views of a political party. That is why both major political parties oppose preferential voting.
Adams’ main contention is that ranked-choice voting “protects establishment candidates with high notoriety.” If ranked voting is supposed to protect establishment candidates with high notoriety, why didn’t Sarah Palin win the special election for Alaska’s only seat in August? His competitor was Mary Peltola, a Democrat, and Nick Begich, a Republican. While Alaskans know more about Peltola and Begich than the rest of us, everyone knows who Sarah Palin is, giving her a definite edge in name recognition.
Begich, her Republican opponent, responded to this question: “Ranked Choice Voting showed that Palin just doesn’t have enough support from Alaskans to win an election…” Ranked Choice Voting did not therefore not helped the establishment candidate with the most name recognition. Rather, the loss of Sarah Palin was based on the simple fact that when Alaskans had to choose between her and Peltola, they loved Peltola more.
The misinformation Adams is spreading about preferential voting has been refuted by members of his own party. When Senator Tom Cotton spread misleading theories about preferential voting in light of Sarah Palin’s defeat in Alaska, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele wrote, “And exactly how #RCV ‘rigs- the elections” again? Typical… spiel and no facts. Former Republican (now Libertarian) Representative from Michigan, Justin Amash, wrote: “The problem for the Republican Party in Alaska was not the preferential vote; they were their candidates. Requiring a candidate to get more than 50% to be elected is not a scam; it makes sense. Let’s implement ranking voting everywhere.
Voting for Question 3 is for those who: 1) support removing the primary process from the hands of political parties and allowing Nevadans to field the top five candidates in the general election, regardless of political affiliation; and 2) thinks that the candidate who wins the general election should in fact be required to win with the majority of votes. If you don’t believe in those two things, don’t vote for question 3. But if, like me, you really believe that voters rather than parties should decide who wins elections, and who wins elections should only do so by obtaining a majority of votes, I urge you to vote yes to question 3.
David Kladney is a Reno lawyer who serves on the US Commissioner for Civil Rights. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission.
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