Boots & Sabers

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0654, 02 Mar 21

Ranked choice voting should be the last choice

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

A bipartisan handful of Wisconsin legislators have introduced a bill to implement a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system for the elections of federal legislative offices. RCV is also referred to as “instant runoff” or “final five,” but irrespective of what one calls it, it is bad policy that contorts our electoral process and obfuscates the will of the governed.


The proponents of ranked-choice voting see it as a means to reduce the rancor that we see in our politics today. What they seem to forget is that acrimony, forceful rhetoric, and gridlock are not a bug in our political system. It is a feature. It shows that it is working. After all, we have imbued these politicians with the power to restrict our rights and confiscate our property. We do not want them to do that lightly where submissive agreement is a greater priority than good public policy. The process should be difficult and discordant opinions should be forcefully expressed.


We are a nation with an endless spectrum of political philosophies and social values. In a representative government, we want all of those philosophies and values to be vehemently advocated in the public square so that they are included in the creation of public policy. Ranked-choice voting serves to silence the philosophical diversity that makes our nation stronger.


0654, 02 March 2021


  1. 9606

    Rcv is like a poll tax. Maybe only those really interested in the issues, and voting, will vote. Those that can’t figure out the issues, candidates, or rcv procedure wont bother.

  2. Mar

    Gee, they want it to be just for federal elections but not their state races.
    I wonder why?
    Rules for thee but not for me.

  3. Tuerqas

    If it made it harder for superwealthy to buy Congressmen I would want to know more about it. If there were 5 finalists in every election, they would have to pay a lot more to cover their bets…

  4. dad29

    Hadley Arkes:

    “We have heard now, almost every day, the breathless news from pundits, lacking anything original to say, that our country and our politics are “polarized.” The next bit of wisdom tendered is that we need political men and women of larger nature, who can break away from their political attachments and find some ever-beckoning middle ground.

    “This perspective treats the “political” as though it was the mark of some distemper, or some “lower” motive that needs to be transcended. What is lost is the classic sense coming down to us from Aristotle: that the “polis” is an irreducibly moral association. It is a community that shares at least some rough understanding of the things that are just and unjust, right and wrong, and that understanding finds its sharpest reflections in the laws. ”

    RCV is not ‘for the voters.’ It is ‘for the lifer-politician.’

  5. jsr

    Hey Owen,
    In your column you state “Under an RCV scheme, partisan primaries are abandoned in favor of a primary in which the top five candidates advance to the general election. For the general election, voters rank the five candidates in order of preference starting with their most favored candidate and ending with their least favored candidate.”

    That’s an element of what is being proposed in Wisconsin. It’s not a requirement for RCV. It’s not done that way in Alaska and Maine, which both use RCV in party primaries.

  6. Mar

    And jsr, look what kind of senators have come out of Maine and Alaska.
    Murkowski, King, Collins. Not the brightest ones in the bunch.

  7. Owen

    True, jsr, but we are talking about the Wisconsin proposal.

  8. jsr

    Indeed, Owen, but your column portrayed the jungle primary as being a required part of RCV. It is not. The jungle primary is an ugly feature of Wisconsin.

    Mar, those states have just begun using RCV, so you can’t blame RCV for the quality of the politicians elected before RCV was instituted.

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