February 19, 2021
Nebraska statehouse reporters feel obligated to point out that our one-house Legislature is “officially” nonpartisan, but political affiliations have never been a secret.
As a result, despite George W. Norris’ best intentions in furthering the spirit on nonpartisanship, Nebraskans often are left with an either-or, lesser-of-two-evils choice in the ballot box.
Sen. John McCollister of Omaha is offering an alternative he said would reduce partisanship, produce better candidates and give voters confidence their votes aren’t wasted.
Under the bill, LB125, voters would note on a ballot their most-preferred candidate, second-most preferred and so on for all candidates. It would apply for governor, Congress and the Legislature if at least three candidates are on the ballot.
“Voters should be able to vote for candidates they support, not just against candidates they oppose,” Kimberly Jones of Bellevue told the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday in support of McCollister’s bill, which she said would also encourage third-party candidates.
The committee took no action on the bill, and many other bills are likely to take priority, but Nebraskans should give the idea serious consideration.
Cindy Maxwell-Ostdiek, president of Rank The Vote Nebraska, said ranked-choice voting discourages negative campaigning and creates more opportunity for women and non-white candidates.
Lancaster County Election Commissioner David Shively said changing voting procedures could lead to voter confusion, delay election results and double the cost of printing ballots.
“We spend an enormous amount of time testing the ballots to go through the machines to make sure all the ovals are accurately counted,” Shively said. “This would [add] some additional time.”
In general, proponents of ranked-choice voting say it promotes majority support of the winning candidate, discourages negative campaigning, lets voters cast their ballots for candidates they truly feel is best and saves money compared to running primary elections.
It also provides an outcome more reflective of the majority of voters rather than extremes on either end of the political spectrum.
Opponents worry about abandoning the current system, say it would be hard to educate voters about the new system, and would complicate counting.
Primaries help weed out unsuitable candidates, and you could still fail to get a candidate with a majority, opponents say.
Still, proponents point to examples where ranked-choice voting has resulted in better turnout and greater voter satisfaction because of less negative campaigning.
The pandemic has forced Nebraskans to adapt to changes we never would have believed had we not lived through it.
A few changes to help elect officials who more accurately reflect their constituents should not be that difficult.