Why Term Lim­its Lost and Ranked Choice Vot­ing Will Suc­ceed

El Dorado News-Times - - Viewpoint - MICHAEL SHAN­NON

There have been two ma­jor at­tempts to change the cal­cu­lus of elec­tions and of­fice­hold­ers since the 1990s. One is a top down "re­form" that's cur­rently be­ing im­posed on vot­ers a ju­ris­dic­tion at a time. The other was a bot­tomup ef­fort im­posed on the politi­cians. The fate of the two is very in­struc­tive.

The top down in­no­va­tion is ranked­choice vot­ing, and the midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions in Maine were the first fed­eral con­tests to be de­cided by ranked choice.

Ranked choice works this way: In ev­ery race with more than two can­di­dates, vot­ers rank the con­tes­tants in or­der of pref­er­ence like judges at a wet t-shirt con­test.

In a multi-can­di­date field, if no one re­ceives a ma­jor­ity, then all last­place fin­isher bal­lots are thrown out, and those voter's sec­ond choice be­comes their new vote. If no one gets a ma­jor­ity then, the last place fin­isher's votes con­tinue to be tossed and sec­ond choices used un­til some­one gets a ma­jor­ity or Trump de­clares mar­tial law.

Boost­ers of ranked choice vot­ing pro­mote the change with feel­good prom­ises that are mostly im­mune to ver­i­fi­ca­tion. As the League of Women Vot­ers demon­strates.

Ac­cord­ing to that hen party ranked choice "pro­motes ma­jor­ity sup­port...dis­cour­ages neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing... pro­vides more choice... min­i­mizes strate­gic vot­ing... [and] saves money".

What they don't tell you is many elec­tions are go­ing to be de­cided by vot­ers who are the worst at judg­ing can­di­dates and the is­sues that make them electable. The sec­ond­place votes of peo­ple whose can­di­date fin­ished dead last are go­ing to be used to de­ter­mine a win­ner. That alone will put a spring in the step of Lyn­don LaRouche and Deez Nuts vot­ers.

What should dis­qual­ify ranked-choice vot­ing from be­ing used is not re­ly­ing upon the whims of the in­com­pe­tent to choose the win­ner. The big prob­lem with the sys­tem is it's un­con­sti­tu­tional.

By com­par­i­son term lim­its was a bot­tom-up move­ment that swept the na­tion. Twenty-three states im­posed term lim­its on politi­cians by 1995, com­pared to ranked choice vot­ing's tiny foothold in Maine and a hand­ful of cities.

As long as op­po­nents of an en­trenched pro­fes­sional po­lit­i­cal class con­fined them­selves to lim­it­ing of­fice­hold­ers in state and lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions they were ini­tially suc­cess­ful. It was only when vot­ers ap­plied term lim­its to fed­eral can­di­dates that prob­lems be­gan.

Bar­na­cle-like con­gres­sional in­cum­bents knew they could never per­suade vot­ers to re­peal term lim­its, so they en­listed the help of our politi­cians in black robes who re­ally rule the coun­try.

In U.S. Term Lim­its v. Thorn­ton the left­ist ma­jor­ity on the Supreme Court ruled term lim­its un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause they al­legedly vi­o­lated Ar­ti­cle 1, Sec­tion 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion by adding ad­di­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions to who was el­i­gi­ble to run. Term lim­its did no such thing. Leg­is­la­tion that lim­its du­ra­tion of ser­vice does not change the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for ser­vice.

The Con­sti­tu­tion is silent as to how many times a con­gres­sional can­di­date may run and how long he can hold of­fice. In his Thorn­ton de­ci­sion dis­sent Jus­tice Clarence Thomas wrote, "Noth­ing in the Con­sti­tu­tion de­prives the peo­ple of each State of the power to pre­scribe el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments for the can­di­dates who seek to rep­re­sent them in Con­gress. The Con­sti­tu­tion is sim­ply silent on this ques­tion. And where the Con­sti­tu­tion is silent, it raises no bar to ac­tion by the States or the peo­ple."

The 10th Amend­ment also sup­ports Jus­tice Thomas: "The pow­ers not del­e­gated to the United States by the Con­sti­tu­tion, nor pro­hib­ited by it to the States, are re­served to the States re­spec­tively, or to the peo­ple." Which ex­actly de­scribes a statewide ref­er­en­dum lim­it­ing terms in of­fice.

Com­pare the court's opin­ion of term lim­its with the ob­vi­ous un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of ranked choice vot­ing. In Reynolds v. Sims, de­cided in 1964, the Supremes es­tab­lished the prin­ci­ple of one man, one vote.

Ranked choice vot­ing vi­o­lates this prin­ci­ple be­cause the vot­ers who sup­ported the los­ing can­di­date have their votes counted twice. First for the loser and then for their sec­ond choice. The vot­ers who had enough sense to vote for a vi­able can­di­date in the first place only have their votes counted once. It's elec­toral af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion for the po­lit­i­cally im­paired.

The loser of the Maine race in­tends to chal­lenge the re­sult in court, but I'm not op­ti­mistic. For some rea­son, his lawyers ig­nore the ob­vi­ous one man, one vote prob­lem and in­stead fo­cus on ir­rel­e­van­cies.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if the Supreme Court ac­cepts the case and if it does, how the court will de­cide. Ranked choice is sup­ported by all the best peo­ple and the Op­po­si­tion Me­dia. Plus, it's used in for­eign coun­tries! Term lim­its had the dis­ad­van­tage of only be­ing sup­ported by ma­jori­ties of av­er­age vot­ers in their re­spec­tive states and we know how that turned out.

Michael Shan­non is a com­men­ta­tor and pub­lic re­la­tions con­sul­tant, and is the au­thor of "A Con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian's Guide­book for Liv­ing in Sec­u­lar Times." He can be reached at man­date. [email protected]

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