To the editor:
Tragically and for the second time, the Legal Marijuana Now candidate in the 2nd District race has died: Adam Weeks in 2020 and Paula Overby earlier this month. Since Overby’s death occurred so close to the election, she, like Weeks, will remain on the ballot.
Overby’s death produces a particularly cruel irony: Votes cast for her, and her larger political program, will end up effectively not counted. Given the competitive nature of the 2nd District, it is possible that those votes will be decisive. When Overby ran for this seat in 2016, she earned nearly 8% of the vote in a race that was decided by less than two points.
There’s a solution for situations like this — and for the larger persistent problem of third-party candidates siphoning votes away from ideologically similar candidates: ranked choice voting.
RCV is a nonpartisan reform that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no one earns a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and those votes are automatically transferred to those voters’ second choices and so on, until one candidate earns a majority and wins. In a race with more than two candidates, RCV ensures the winning candidate has earned a majority of voter support.
RCV gives voters the freedom to choose their favorite candidate and then pick a second choice as a backup in case their first choice doesn’t win. It ensures that voters won’t “waste” votes on a long shot or feel forced to betray their true preferences by voting for a candidate they think has a better chance to win. Perhaps more important, it encourages candidates to reach out to a broad constituency to secure second-choice votes, and tamps down on the polarization threatening our democracy.
This fall, I will be voting for candidates who support bringing RCV to elections for state and federal offices — candidates like 2nd District U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, state Sen. Jim Carlson (Senate District 52), state Rep. Liz Reyer (House District 52A) and state Rep. Ruth Richardson (House District 52B). I urge you to do the same.