Column critical of ranked-choice voting off the mark

Guest Columnist

Being of a conservative nature I generally agree with most of Tom West’s writings. However, his Nov. 28 article regarding ranked-choice voting was off the mark.

First, it gives the impression that anyone who doesn’t endorse either of the two ancient, proper political parties must be an “off-the-wall extremist, uncompromising fascist or commie.”

In doing so, it insults all of the citizens who simply want responsible action from their elected representatives — a quality that is sorely lacking today at both state and federal levels of government.

It suggests that voters are incapable of making an intelligent choice with more  than two names on a ballot for any given office. That is patently false.

I believe voters in large numbers will shift their votes from the two main-stream parties to a lesser known (i.e. independent) party only when they become disgusted with the lack of performance they see in the Republicans and Democrats. This was the case when Jesse Ventura took the governorship (for better or worse).

This should have been a lesson to the two major parties in cooperating to get the people’s work done. Obviously, it wasn’t.

My point is basically the same view the article seems to hold in contempt, that voters deserve to have the best possible choice at the ballot box. If there wasn’t a penalty for voting for a more moderate individual such as is the case today (“it’s our way or the highway”), and voters were allowed to voice their true choice in government, we might actually have politicians that serve the people because they know what the electorate wants.

Let me demonstrate what I mean. I am 75 years young and I have voted principally Republican for most of my life. I voted for George W. Bush one time and for Kerry the second because I thought he would do less damage to our country. I voted for John McCain in the last election because I thought he would steer a cooperative course with Congress that would result in getting things done. (Was I wrong?)

I have no use for our current U.S. Congress because it can’t rise above party ideologies to get control of a potentially disastrous economic situation. The same holds true of our state government. There is no cooperative effort to fix our financial situation. They kick the can down the road.

In the last governor race, I voted for Dayton, not because he was my best choice, but because I thought he was better than the alternative.  My choice for governor was actually Tom Horner because, after hearing him on public radio, I thought he had the best view of what needed to be done for our state. Now, I ask you, is Tom Horner an “off-the-wall extremist” or any of the above?

The article said that people who don’t want to accept the ideologies of the Republican or Democratic parties are “uncompromising, ‘my way or the highway’ types.”

First: The article describes the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party perfectly. It is not the independents that turned the Republican Party into the party of “no.” It is precisely the attitude that prevents citizens from expressing their political voice honestly.

The article wants us to vote for Republicans or Democrats, but nothing else.

It states that IP’s Tim Penny and Tom Horner were both beaten in gubernatorial elections, but neglects to state by what margin. Is it not possible that with an honest, ranked-choice voting system either, or both, may have been elected?

Second: There is no reason, except political fear, why any citizen of this country should have the ideology of a particular party stuffed down his/her throat because of an inequitable, obsolete voting system. We have a voting system where a few party polls in two parties determine two choices (and only two) for a particular office.

A third or fourth choice is illogical because voters will accept their second choice rather than give their vote to their first choice who has little chance of election.

A ranked-choice system would allow all voters to vote with their hearts and minds, not just out of expediency. It would not deprive anyone, including Republicans or Democrats who might think the IP or another candidate would be a good second choice.

Third: The article states that “ranked-choice voting is just asking for trouble.” This insinuates that people who can make first, second and third choices on a football pool are not capable of making a first and second choice for governor. That is arrogance.

Fourth: You state that Italy, with its many political parties is on the verge of bankruptcy and insinuate that that is the cause. Perhaps, but if our two-party system is superior, why is our country in such a dire financial situation? You can’t equate the number of parties as relative to the financial condition of a country. It is a case of corruption, greed and mismanagement — we have our share of that in our two party system.

Fifth: The article states that “the two party system has evolved over time,” and that is certainly true. But our society has also evolved from a primarily agricultural and labor-related society to a much more diverse one. The old standards no longer fit.

It’s time for further evolution in our voting system to perhaps a ranked-choice system that eliminates the Electoral College.

Richard H. Grabmeier is a resident of Albany.

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