"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." -John Adams
Empowering Third Parties
I may be running as a Democrat, but that is because I recognize the reality that is our two-party system. We have a range of third parties in the United States, but only the Democratic Party and the Republican Party hold seats in our Federal Government, along with only two non-affiliated Senators.
If I saw it as plausible, I would run as an Independent. I don't agree with any party, major or minor, enough to pledge full support. But, I felt the need to select one of the two major parties that best represented my values. That party happens to be the Democratic Party.
It is not reasonable to only have two options- not everyone falls into one category or another. People are complex and have complicated points of view. If there are other parties such as the Libertarian or Green parties that resonate more with them, they should be able to vote their conscience with full confidence.
Ranked Choice Voting
The major reform that I support to empower third parties is implementing Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank their preferences of the candidates on the ballot. 1st Choice, 2nd Choice, 3rd Choice, and so on.
Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff, works in rounds: if after the "first round", no candidate receives over 50% of the vote (majority vote), then the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated. For the voters who selected the eliminated candidate, it then goes to their second choice, and that it added to the remaining vote totals. This continues until a candidate receives majority support.
Currently, it is common for voters to make "calculated" decisions when voting. If they support a Libertarian Party candidate, but they really don't want the Democratic Candidate, they may feel like their vote for the Libertarian would be a "throw away" or "spoiler vote" that hands the election over to the Democratic candidate. The same could be said of Green Party supporters or any other third party as well. This also leads to the "lesser of two evil" vote as well.
Voters should be able to vote their conscience. They should not have to worry about making calculated decisions. It is simple enough to say "I prefer this candidate, but if that candidate doesn't win, I prefer this candidate."
RCV also insures that whichever candidate wins has majority support. Currently, we have "first past the post", or plurality winner. All you have to do is win the largest percentage- you do not need to reach 50%. That means in a four-way race, a candidate only needs 25.1% of the vote to win. This can be even worse in party primaries, where it is more likely to have three or more candidates.
RCV is a win for third parties and major parties alike. Major parties don't have to worry about "losing" votes to third parties, as they can still be selected as the voter's second choice. Third party voters, on the other hand, can vote with confidence knowing that if their preferred candidate is eliminated, their second choice will be considered.
To learn more about implementing RCV in Michigan, check out Rank MI Vote.