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Ranked voting: You don't have to settle for lesser of 2 evils

It is time for Connecticut to take a serious look at changing to a ranked-voting system. It would give voters the opportunity to choose the candidate they really like without fear of helping elect the guy, or gal, they really don’t like. It would encourage more third-party and independent candidates. And it would discourage attack ads. We sure could use fewer of those.

How does it work?

Consider the last election for governor in Connecticut. You had three candidates running for an open seat after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opted not to seek re-election. Ned Lamont was the Democratic nominee, Bob Stefanowski the Republican choice, and running a long-shot independent candidacy was Oz Griebel.

Now, as a voter, you may have liked what Griebel was selling. He called for a more problem-solving centrist approach to governing. He wanted to aggressively attack the state’s underfunded pension plans to get the state back into fiscal health. Griebel pitched himself as pro-business but saw tolls as needed to get the transportation structure in sufficient shape to make Connecticut economically competitive.

A businessman and former Republican, he selected as his running Monte Frank — a lawyer, Democrat and gun control advocate. The ticket’s campaign slogan was: "No politics. No parties. Just solutions."

But even if you liked Griebel, you may have feared voting for him. A voter who leaned Democrat might conclude there was no way Griebel would win and therefore a vote for him would be wasted and help elect Stefanowski governor. Conversely, a voter who leaned Republican also would likely stay clear of Oz, not wanting to help get Lamont elected.

But under ranked voting, if you were that Democrat leaner, you could rank Griebel as your first choice, Lamont as your second, and either Stefanowski as your third choice or ignore him completely. If, alas, Griebel finished last when first-ranked votes were tabulated, he would be eliminated. Your vote then would go to your second choice — Lamont. And if, in that second round, the total of votes ranking Lamont as their first or second choice surpassed 50 percent, Lamont wins. The same would hold true for Stefanowski.

But something surprising could happen. Maybe so many ranked Griebel their first choice that a major party candidate, say Stefanowski, fell to last. Then Griebel, on the strength of his first-choice votes and Stefanowski supporters who picked him second, would win the election.

A video available on the Fairvote website well explains how the process works.

This approach also assures the person who wins has the support of more than 50 percent of the voters, either as their first choice or in a combination of first, second and even third choices. In the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, Stefanowski won with only 29.4 percent of the vote in a five-way race. That couldn’t happen with ranked voting.

And with ranked voting, candidates might think twice before besmirching their opponents in attack ads. A candidate will want their opponents' supporters to consider making him or her their second choice. That’s not likely to happen if you’re lying in an ad about your opponent hating puppies and defunding orphanages.

Last September, Maine became the first state to authorize ranked-choice voting to decide Electoral College votes in this year’s general presidential election, and will allow the process for presidential primaries starting in 2024.

The Democratic Party in four states – Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming – will use ranked voting in the upcoming presidential primaries."

And in this past election, New York City voters approved a proposal to use ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and members of the City Council starting in 2021.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the top person in charge of state elections, last year pushed for a bill to study such a possible change in our voting. It passed the House but died in the Senate. It should be reintroduced and, this time, approved by both chambers and signed by the governor.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

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