Ben Shapiro on Ranked Choice Voting

A young libertarian/conservative caller recently asked Ben Shapiro about his views on Rank Choice Voting (one of our favorite recent innovations in the political space). Ben was rather kind to the idea and we’ll recap his views at the bottom. But first his views in full:

I kind of like that you have ranked-choice voting. Now, the Iowa caucuses are a horrible example of, of ranked-choice voting, right (laughs) the Iowa caucuses? Basically because you are in a group of people who don’t understand how ranked-choice voting works, and so they will go over to the Andrew Yang crowd, and then when it doesn’t hit the threshold, then you have to redistribute them among the other voters. That is ranked-choice voting, but nobody in the room actually knows how that works. If you actually had people write it down on a ballot what their ranked choices were, and not pressure each other as though they were at some sort of Middle Eastern bazaar, then that would, uh, that would be a, a better way to do it.

Ranked-choice voting for folks who don’t understand is let’s say that you were… Let, let’s use the Iowa caucus as an example. Let’s say you wanted to vote for Andrew Yang, but Andrew Yang isn’t gonna win, so you, you have to hit a certain threshold, let’s say 10%. Okay, so you vote for Andrew Yang, and then you write down as my second choice, I want Joe Biden. And so Andrew Yang loses, he gets below 10%, and now your second choice vote, instead of your vote being completely thrown out and you being useless now, your second choice vote goes to Joe Biden, who’s actually competitive.

What that would do in terms of national elections would mean that let’s say that you voted for Gary Johnson last time, and your second choice vote was Donald Trump, right? Your, your, your last choice vote was Hillary Clinton. So you write down Gary Johnson, and then your second choice vote would be Donald Trump. What that means is more people would vote for Gary Johnson because they know their votes not gonna get thrown out if they vote for Gary Johnson. Gary Johnson would get 12% of the vote, 13% of the vote, and then in the second round, three-quarters of those votes get kicked over to Trump, and Trump wins those votes as opposed to these sort of weird election results where you have, like in 1992 Ross Perot winning 18% of the vote and Bill Clinton winning with 42% of the vote.

I’m not against ranked-choice voting. I think it’s a clever idea, and, and I agree with you that it would actually embolden people to vote for third parties more often, which frankly I think would be a good thing. More choices are, are better in American politics, and the two-party system has basically resulted in a longstanding agreement that nobody will ever take tough positions about anything related to spending or anything politically unpalatable, Joel, so I’m, I’m sort of with you. I kind of like ranked-choice voting.

The Logic Behind Ranked Choice

We’ll have to backtrack a little. Ranked Choice voting tries to tackle a series of longstanding issues with the democratic process in general. In one phrase it provides more information about what voters want.

As Ben pointed out, ranked choice voting could well help the increasingly polarized political landscape the country currently finds itself in. Among the benefits it could also improve the number of female, third party and minority candidates. Meanwhile the naysayer argue that the new system may well make elections much more complicated for voters. 

However what is not in debate is that ranked choice voting does the thing that election officials should want out of the election: it gives them more information about the voters want. 

As always, should we become aware that Mr. Shapiro has changed his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 

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