This piece, written by Rob Richie, originally appeared in Cato Unbound as the lead essay in a series on ranked choice voting in December of 2016.
American democracy today is working more poorly than it has in generations. Even as the toxic 2016 presidential campaign featured the two most unpopular major party candidates in modern history and Congress has historic lows in approval, minor party presidential challengers were marginalized, and nearly 98% of congressional incumbents won re-election. New voices are demeaned as spoilers, which suppresses debate about innovative ideas and shoehorns our diverse political views into two fiercely partisan camps. With the overwhelming majority of elections predictably going to a district or state’s partisan majority, most voters lack meaningful choice even among two candidates. In conflict with the spirit of the Constitution, our electoral rules punish representatives who seek to govern outside their party boxes, blocking sensible changes that have majority support.