States are beginning to question how the voting process fails our system of government and what changes should be made, if any. There are two basic changes that could be implemented on a widespread basis: automatic voter registration and ranked choice voting. Both of these choices change the way elections would play out. Both would also change the way electoral candidates face off against one another. And both could be subject to a number of legal challenges in the near future.
Automatic voter registration is exactly what it sounds like: the state government will automatically register you as a voter whenever you visit the Department of Motor Vehicles or change your postal address. Massachusetts is set to implement this system in 2020, and other states are looking into it. Such a system could reduce the likelihood of voter suppression (an important tactic for Republicans) and increase voter attendance on Election Day.
A few states take the system one step further: not only do they automatically register their residents to vote, but they also send out absentee ballots to every single one of those voters. Such a system is also meant to increase the number of votes cast on Election Day, but it doesn’t always work (although we ask ourselves what anyone’s excuse for not voting with an absentee ballot in hand could possibly be).
Ranked choice voting is another controversial maneuver (somehow).
Typically, only a plurality of votes is needed to win an election. That means no one needs to break a 50 percent threshold in order to win. Ranked choice voting ensures that a candidate does need to break that threshold. Basically, voters would rank their first, second, third choice, etc. On Election Day, each “last place” candidate to fall beneath the needed threshold to stay in the race would be eliminated until one of the more popular candidates finally meets the 50 percent threshold needed to win.
Ranked choice voting is a popular alternative for several reasons. For starters, no one who votes in a ranked choice state is allowed to say that voting for a third party candidate is a wasted vote — because literally anyone can beat that 50 percent threshold if enough people rank him or her highly enough. It gives everyone a fair chance regardless of traditional socially influenced lines of thinking.
It also eliminates strategic voting practices when a third party candidate is in the race. In addition, candidates should feel less inclined to run negative campaigns because voters no longer have an either/or choice to make. Instead, candidates should simply be seeking as many first place rankings as possible. Second or third place? That should be great too.
Obviously, these systems of voting are unpopular with certain political parties which benefit the least from them (i.e. Republicans). And that’s why legal challenges seem inevitable.