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Recycling votes @ 10 Nov 2016

The outcome of the recent presidental race severely upset Democratic voters, as one could expect. Because Hillary Clinton received a plurality of votes but lost the election in terms of electoral votes, many frustrated voters are suggesting that we dismantle the Electoral College (which, to be clear, I support). But another theme amidst the discontent has been vehement negativity toward the large number of citizens who cast votes for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson – votes which could have supported another candidate instead.

Third-party voters vote their conscience, presumably, so we cannot unreasonably villify our fellow citizens who, for whatever reason, do not feel that they can vote for either major-party candidate.

As it stands today, third-party voters are often accused of "throwing away" their votes. In his 2012 campaign, Gary Johnson encouraged his followers to do just that and "Give [him] 5!" in order to obtain 5% of the vote and move the Libertarian Party more into the forefront of American politics. While these voters affect the race by taking away votes that could otherwise shift the tide of a tight election, there's no reason that they should not have their voices heard.

Think about the major elections you've lived through – including this year's presidential cycle. Whenever you have been faced with more than two choices for a particular office, it's likely that you have developed varied preferences for the different candidates. If your top choice doesn't win, who would you prefer?

What if you could express your preferences in their entirety as you feel them instead of choosing and voting for only a single candidate?

That's exactly what an alternative voting system like ranked-choice (AKA instant-runoff) provides: voters rank candidates, and "votes" for candidates who do not receive a plurality are discarded as the voters' second choices, third choices, etc. are considered until some candiate receives a plurality and thereby wins the election.

FairVote champions this idea for adoption at all levels of government. However, it seems that discussion of these alternatives is only held within limited (academic) circles. With all the rhetoric today about making fundamental changes to our voting system, why not entertain a proven strategy which helps ensure that every vote matters? While we're considering what we don't (or do) like about elections in the United States, let's not forget to reconsider how we cast our ballots.

No more wasted votes. Let's recycle them instead.


I'm a liberal independent. During the 2016 election cycle, I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary and Hillary Clintion in the general.


This post was inspired by a tweet I saw which linked to a Wikipedia article covering a specific ranked-choice voting system. Unfortunately, I cannot recall exactly who produced that tweet or which voting system was cited.