Heritage Foundation’s questionable critiques on ranked-choice voting

To the editor:

Perhaps it’s an inability to detect irony or uncanny knack for self-projection, but one thing is certain: The Heritage Foundation cannot help but engage in hyperbole and hypocrisy regarding ranked-choice voting.

Take, for example, a recent report from August 2019 titled “Ranked Choice Voting is a Bad Choice.” The first paragraph begins stating “You will not believe what ‘reformers’ have devised to tinker with and manipulate our elections. It is called ranked choice voting (or “instant runoff voting”) — but it is really a scheme to disconnect elections from issues and allow candidates with marginal support from voters to win elections. Some jurisdictions in the U.S. have already replaced traditional elections with the ranked choice scheme.”

Dastardly reformists. As the “report” continues, they create an example of a sauce shopper and a false equivalency — part of the example uses the “normal” voting system allowing the shopper to rank sauce choices and pick the one he likes most.

The second part finds his least favorite choice as the winner when other shoppers’ preferences are considered, ignoring that, for part of the example, only one vote mattered, while for the other multiple voters’ preferences are accounted for. A chasm in logic this large could be mistaken for a freshman debater’s blunder but the fearmongering doesn’t end here.

Next, they point to a study of four elections and a few other case studies where the winners were not the majority-vote recipient. Many voters did not rank candidates past their first two preferences and were “thrown out,” in Heritage’s words, when those candidates didn’t win.

This is a striking bit of mock sympathy for voters, considering Heritage’s support for the Electoral College, an institution that granted victory in two of the last five presidential elections to Republican candidates who received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents.

First, Heritage disregards that ranking only occurs if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote. Heritage also ignores existing realities surrounding third-party voting, which is considered “throwing your vote away,” in accordance with Duverger’s Law. Votes for candidates currently are simple — if yours loses, it’s over. Hence, lesser-evil voting, which isn’t reflective of people’s preferences — and as such leads us back to the need for ranked-choice voting.

Regardless of one’s stance, please be sure to mark your preference. Question 2 is on the back of the ballot.

Christian Kennedy, Pittsfield