Our solution to the problems faced by American elections is Rank and Add voting, an elegantly simple method that allows voters to express their preferences.
Let’s Change How We Vote
Voting reform does not begin at the ballot box. It begins by changing how we make decisions every day. How do you choose where you and your friends will be going for dinner? What about choosing what movie to watch with a group? Or, what about choosing a leader at a school club or community group? It’s easy to get frustrated when these choices are decided by a simple majority because we all have preferences.
So, how do we take these preferences into account? The solution is as easy as 1, 2, 3! You take into account what people’s first, second, and third choices are, convert those choices into points, and add it all up. That is the simple logic of Rank and Add. The best part is it can be used for almost any type of group decision, and it will always lead to better, consensus-driven outcomes.
Once we realize the full potential of Rank and Add, it is evident that it can be adapted to transform our elections for the better.
Why Should Voters Be Able To Rank Candidates?
The cornerstone of our democracy is representation. Elections exist so that people can make their voices heard through elected officials. Unfortunately, the voting mechanisms employed throughout most of the country do not truly represent people’s wishes because they ignore a fundamental truth: people have complex preferences.
From the everyday to our democracy
People don’t just have ONE favorite restaurant and hate the rest or believe ONE baseball player is the best and all the others are equal. In real life, people’s priorities are ordered. That’s why the Baseball Writers Association uses a ranking method to determine the Most Valuable Player. It’s the reason why groups should decide where to eat based on broad acceptance, not necessarily through a majority rules vote.
That same principle applies when people go to vote: the vast majority have relative rankings of candidates in mind when they fill out their ballot–not just a favorite but a second best, third best, and so on. As long as elections only allow people to vote for a single person there will always be meaningful preferences left unheard.
The Effect of Rank and Add
If given the choice to rank candidates, every voter would be empowered to express their true thoughts and feelings about office-seekers. Every candidate would also be forced to compete for a higher slot on people’s ballot. People who feel their vote is taken for granted could support people whose views better match theirs without harming other closely aligned candidates. Politicians will now have a direct measurement of how their policies are sitting with all of us, as we will have the choice to give them a ranking as a more-precise sign of our approval for their work. People who feel totally unrepresented would have the power to elevate previously invisible candidates. Most importantly, the eventual representative would owe their election to broad support rather than narrow assent. This solution is what we call Rank and Add.
We need electoral reform to fight partisanship, to give voters more voice, and to develop better candidates. We need better democracy. Voters Choose needs you to help us get there!
How Does Rank and Add Work?
Under Rank and Add, every voter would have the ability to rank their favorite candidates from first to last place, or simply rank as many as they wish. Each vote would be recorded and tallied in separate columns for each candidate. A first place vote would naturally be worth a whole point, a second place vote would be worth a half point, a third place would be worth a third, and so on. That makes preferences matter enough to be significant, but not be worth so much that there is no difference between first and second.
We believe this method is the soundest way of allowing people to express preferences, making sure that those preferences are accounted for in every ballot, and maintaining a workable system that is not prone to excessive tactical voting. Most importantly, the system is easy to understand for all voters through its elegant simplicity.
Who uses Rank and Add?
Rank and Add is part of a family of electoral systems that political scientists call Borda Count. All Borda Count systems are based on the same principles: voters rank their preferences, those ranks are turned into points, and points are added to determine the winner. The systems vary in how they assign point values to each rank. Rank and Add is the easiest and fairest of these systems because it is not dependent on the number of options being ranked.
Using Rank and Add:
- Harvard Undergraduate Council. Our chapter at Harvard University, Harvard Undergraduate Voters Choose, helped the Undergraduate Council transition to a Rank and Add system in 2018.
- Nauru.🇳🇷 The island nation of Nauru selects its 19 Members of Parliament using Rank and Add. They elect 2-4 candidates from a total of 8 constituencies.
Using another form of Borda Count:
- University of Michigan Student Government of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSASG).
- Most Valuable Player – Baseball Writers Association.
- Kiribati 🇰🇮 Maneaba (Local Legislative Council).
- Slovenia 🇸🇮 National Assembly Ethnic Minority Seats.