Look at the rules under which all political parties operate in Michigan (and in most other states). Whenever we nominate our candidate for President, Congress, State Legislature, County Commission, etc., it says right on the ballot: “Vote for not more than 1.”
That’s not a rule the Green Party made. It’s state election law, set by the state legislature. It could be changed by the state legislature. We would prefer it were changed – to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). In the state of Maine, a ballot issue to institute IRV (or RCV, if you prefer) passed as a ballot issue in this last election.
Whether you call it IRV or RCV, the instruction on the ballot would read something like this: “Fill in the oval marked “1st choice” opposite the name of the candidate who is your first choice and in the ovals marked “2nd,” “3rd,” and “4th” choice opposite the names of other candidates in order of your preference. You may only choose one candidate for each preference choice, and only one preference choice for each candidate. Ballots that mark more than one preference for a single candidate, or more than one candidate for a single preference level, will not be counted.”
Yeah, the instruction is a little more complicated, but it’s not so complicated that any voter capable of preferring one candidate over another would not be able to figure it out.
Now, why would it be worth changing the rule? When the voter can only vote for one candidate, it’s not possible for two candidates for the same office to form any kind of coalition. A vote that benefits one is necessarily denied to all the other candidates for that office. When “Vote for not more than 1” is the rule, splitting the vote among similar candidates is the consequence. If Greens “spoil” the election of progressive Democrats, then progressive Democrats equally “spoil” the election of Greens. “Splitting the vote” is the neutral and accurate term to describe what happens.
With IRV, if two candidates have similar positiions on some important issues, both of the candidates benefit. Assuming that each candidate has her own supporters, the other similar candidate will most reasonably be the second choice for most of those voters. Instead of splitting the vote among two candidates who, for instance, support the right of a woman to have an abortion, IRV means that each candidate will work to ensure that a supporter of the right to an abortion is elected. That’s the consequence of the rules for voting with IRV, not the decision of the candidates.
To summarize, current rules for voting mean that each candidate must urge voters, “Vote for me! (Not for anyone else.)” It makes every candidate the opponent of every other. It makes it impossible for Green Party and Democratic Party candidates to form any kind of coalition. The only way the parties might cooperate would be for one party not to run a candidate for a given position; in other words, for one party to commit suicide in this, that or the other race. In the Green Party we have actually gotten requests from Democrats not to run a candidate for a particular office, though we have never gotten an offer from the Democratic Party to reciprocate.
Change the rules and you change the possibilities. With IRV, it would be possible for a Democrat and a Green running for the same office to add to each other’s vote totals instead of subtracting. Of course, the Democrats would have to be running an actual progressive candidate for this to have full effect, but that’s sort of a different question. In any case, IRV eliminates splitting the vote.
If it is so important to have Greens working together with progressive Democrats, you would think that one or more of the progressive Democrats in our state legislature could introduce a bill to require IRV for all state offices. The bill might not pass the state legislature, but it would not be all that hard to make it a ballot issue for the next election. Greens and progressive Democrats could certainly work together on the petitions.
Sound interesting? Willing to work on it? Let us know in the comments.