Instant-runoff voting would give voters the freedom they deserve

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States will elect its next president. After two terms of Barack Obama, and before him two terms of George W. Bush, the odds are the next president will be either a Democrat or a Republican. Only three other parties have won the Whitehouse. Te last politician from neither the Democratic or Republican parties to win it was Millard Fillmore of the Whig Party in 1850.

Especially in an election cycle where each candidate has such low favorability ratings, voters need another choice. With the current electoral system, however, the odds of a third party winning the election are very low; most voters will either vote for one of the two major parties for fear of “wasting” their vote, or will not vote at all. In our current system, a third-party choice is not viable. The presidency need not be a choice between Democrats and Republicans, though. If the electoral system were different, it would not be a choice between two.

The binary system results because the U.S. only lets voters pick one candidate. If the U.S. elected officials through instant-runoff voting (also known as the ranked-choice voting system or single-transferable vote system), then voters could choose the candidate they want most while also ensuring their vote is not wasted. In IRV voters rank the candidates from first to last, first being their most preferred candidate and last being their least preferred. If their first candidate does not achieve a majority of the votes, their vote passes to their second most preferred candidate and so on until a candidate receives a majority.

Through this system, voters can choose their favorite candidate without fearing that they will tip the scales in favor of the candidate they prefer the least. For instance, if this was the method by which the US voted in the 2000 election, voters could have chosen Ralph Nader as their preferred candidate while ranking Al Gore as their second-most preferred candidate. After Nader failed to earn enough votes to win, his votes would pass to Gore and prevent him from losing the election to George W. Bush.

As the electoral system stands now, a vast number of Americans are underrepresented. Americans, especially in this election, have chosen one candidate in order to prevent another candidate from winning. Some Republicans have refused to vote for Trump, but many will do so as a veto toward Clinton. In the same respect, supporters of Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign will support Clinton because they dislike Trump while acknowledging that they do not agree with many of Clinton’s stances. These Americans do not have the candidate that represents them, but they are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Released in January 2016, a Gallup poll found that 42% of Americans identified as Independents in 2015. Sixteen percent of these Independents lean Democratic and another 16% lean Republican, which implies that most Americans would not vote for a true centrist candidate. However, it also implies that the two parties Americans choose between have fundamental issues, and in spite of their disassociation, Americans pick a side in order to seize electoral relevancy.

With an IRV system, we could also eliminate primary voting. Instead of choosing between the Democratic and Republican nominees in the spring, all of the candidates would enter the general election and the least popular candidates would be eliminated. By doing away with the primary process, the money raised for these campaigns could be saved. Because voters can rank the candidates, an IRV system would also result in much less negative advertising; the major political parties will not have one clear target for attack ads, and such ads would be less useful.

Instant-runoff voting takes fear out of the electoral process. It provides voters with more freedom. This system is what the country of stars and stripes needs.