A ranked-choice misunderstanding


To The Editor,

Thank you for the yes on 2 editorial endorsement for the ranked-choice voting reform ballot question.

In Brian Dowd’s article explaining ranked-choice voting, you briefly quote Trip Barnes in his puzzling opposition to Question 2. If that quote is correct, it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding by Mr. Barnes of what ranked-choice voting is and does.

RCV is a nonpartisan mathematical method which allows an “instant runoff” when there is not a majority winner in a first-round vote count (of a race with three or more people). You do not, as Mr. Barnes suggests, “move the vote to somebody else if you don’t like the other person.” To the contrary, RCV preserves the normal “vote for one person” we have now. However, for those of us who want more voice and choice, we can rank two or more candidates of preference, as a backup in case the first count does not produce a majority winner. This method eliminates vote splitting for all parties in their primaries, as well as eliminating the spoiler effect and vote shaming in general election ballots, which have more than the two major-party candidates. The result is a consensus majority winner.

I have used RCV, and it is simple, intuitive, and empowering once you and your group vote with it. Children can use it. Any group of people voting among three or more choices can use it, because it is nonpartisan, and mathematically superior to what we have now (which predictably delivers lousy, nonmajority election results every cycle). Any group using RCV feels a real consensus after the instant runoff process reaches a majority result. This is, in practice, the essence of any democratic intent or ideal.

It is ironic that opposite Brian Dowd’s “Ranking the candidates” article is the report on the “Three-way race for Tisbury’s two MVC seats,” a local, multiperson race which includes candidate Barnes. It will be interesting to watch this race, along with all the other multicandidate ones on ballots, and imagine the results if we had ranked-choice voting to settle them squarely with an actual majority winner. I’ll be making spicy popcorn election night.


Bart Jarek
Oak Bluffs