Strategic voting and ranked choice

Published 9:01 am Friday, October 7, 2016

by Stephen Warren

Hillary Clinton has never met a war, or proposed war, that she didn’t support. Most significantly she supported the invasion of Iraq which resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not over a million deaths; displaced millions more; destroyed the country; opened the door to ISIS; and wasted trillions of dollars. The Iraq war is the greatest crime since Vietnam. As Secretary of State she was the chief instigator of the bombing of Libya and military support for rebel thugs there. This has left the country in shambles and killed well over 10,000 people. She’s supported numerous other acts of criminal aggression.

In the ‘90s she supported the bank deregulation that was a major contributor to the 2008 financial crisis, along with other Wall Street friendly policies that have increased already extreme inequality. She supported the “tough on crime” policies that greatly exacerbated the problem of mass incarceration. She supported the gutting of the basic social safety net. She has supported numerous bad trade deals, such as NAFTA. (Thanks to popular pressure and Bernie Sanders she has retracted her support of the TPP. This convenient reversal could easily go back the other way once president.)

As bad as all this is, the Trump alternative is even worse. Trump’s rise to the GOP nomination depended entirely on his pandering to people’s worst tendencies, such as xenophobia, nativism, racism, sexism and Islamophobia. He has even proposed a complete ban on any of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims from entering the country. As did Clinton, he too, despite numerous denials, supported the invasion of Iraq. Along with most every other issue, he has displayed near total ignorance of international affairs and some of his rhetoric suggests an even more belligerent and destructive foreign policy than Clinton. Trump’s tax plan is an enormous gift to the super wealthy and would greatly increase the deficit and debt. Clinton’s plan quite sensibly raises tax rates for the rich. Under the Trump health care plan 20 million people would lose coverage. Under Clinton’s coverage would be extended to 9 million more people. Climate change is the largest threat to humanity and Trump denies its existence, absurdly calling it a Chinese conspiracy, and opposes any mitigating action. Clinton accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus and supports policies, however inadequate, to deal with the threat.

Scholar and activist Cornel West has stated that this election is “a choice between Trump, who would be a neo-fascist catastrophe, and Clinton, a neo-liberal disaster. That’s why I’m supporting Jill Stein.” He’s right about Trump. He’s right about Clinton. He’s also right that Stein is by far the best candidate. But he’s wrong to offer an unqualified endorsement of Stein. In our political system there are only two choices. Third party candidates don’t have a chance. For swing state voters, the only rational choice is the least bad of the only two plausible options. To vote third party is, in effect, to assist the greater of two evils. Non swing state voters can vote for the best candidate without fear of inadvertently helping the worst.

In Virginia, Clinton currently has a fairly comfortable lead. The latest poll shows a seven point spread. If this holds, a vote for Stein would indeed be the wisest choice. But if not, if the race is close, we must choose the disaster in order to prevent the catastrophe.

Though necessary in our current electoral system, there is a way to do away with the need to pick the lesser of two evils. The alternative is called ranked choice voting. In a ranked choice voting system, there can be any number of candidates and voters can put down as many candidates as they want in order of preference. Votes are counted in stages. In the first round, first choices are counted and if no candidate wins a majority then the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and the ballots are recounted. If the eliminated candidate was your first choice then in the second round of counting your second choice is counted. If there is still no candidate with a majority of votes then the process repeats itself. This goes on until someone receives a majority of votes.

With this system you do not have to worry about wasting your vote or helping the greater of two evils. You can vote for whomever you want and if your first choice doesn’t make the first cut then your second choice will be counted. This voting system would loosen the grip of the two party duopoly and allow in some alternative voices. This would greatly expand the debate and put significant pressure on both major parties to enact beneficial reform.

STEPHEN WARREN lives in Waverly and can be contacted at For more information on ranked choice voting visit