Letter to the Editor: Is Bedford Ready for Ranked Choice Voting?

Submitted by Madeleine Kando

The reason we vote is to influence our government. It is the foundation of a Democracy. But our current voting system lets a candidate win with a minority, which lets a small portion of the electorate decide for everyone else.

With Ranked Choice Voting, the winner MUST receive a majority. If not, voting continues in a second round where voters’ second and third choices are counted. This continues until there is a majority winner.

One of the arguments against using RCV in Bedford is that there are very few contested elections, which makes RCV superfluous.

But that proves the need for RCV. Having too few candidates robs people of choices, so they don’t vote. They don’t vote, so the system has no reason to provide more options. It’s a vicious circle. Ranked Choice Voting encourages candidates to run, since there is no fear of the spoiler effect. 

A majority of Bedford residents (51.7%) voted for Ranked Choice Voting in 2020. Since then, seven sister communities: Acton, Amherst, Arlington, Brookline, Concord and Lexington and Northampton have sent RCV home rule petitions to the Statehouse, waiting for approval. 

Should Bedford wait till the surrounding towns get their bills out of the legislature and then put an RCV petition on the town warrant? Should Bedford be a follower or a leader? One way to get things unstuck in the legislature is to have a groundswell of municipalities submit petitions. This groundswell should include Bedford.

In 2020, only 22.3% of registered voters in Bedford went to the polls to elect local officials. RCV encourages more diverse candidates to run. People participate when there’s competition. If your choice is that there’s no choice, then why even vote? 

In local politics it is often who you know and who is better at projecting a public image that will get you elected. However, popular candidates do not always represent minorities or the less affluent. With RCV, the less connected, less well-known candidate still could go on the ballot.

RCV would be a more democratic and representative way of voting. If we want to go national, we have to start local. Bedford will have a chance to vote on RCV this fall. Will you join us for a more vibrant, representative Bedford? For more information please visit: https://www.bedfordrcv.org.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Dave Draper
February 6, 2024 8:44 am

It is not who casts the votes that matters. It’s who counts the votes. Various permutations of this have been attributed to famous leaders throughout history. American’s are already skeptical on the accuracy and integrity of vote counting. There are still trials and court challenges going on concerning the vote counting in the last Presidential election. Imagine the chaos that can/will occur with the integrity of election results if RCV was implemented on a National basis.

The following articles present an alternative position on RCV. Regardless of where you stand on the issue you owe it to yourself to get educated on both sides of the story.



March 2, 2024 11:39 am
Reply to  Dave Draper

Vote counting is done by machine and can not significantly change who is the winner of an election.

The Hill article argues that Begich lost because RCV promotes extreme candidates vs moderates and that Begich had more total votes in a head-to-head contest against both Pelota and Palin.

But the whole point of RCV is to rank candidates who have broad support as well as core support. Begich did not have enough core support and was eliminated.

Under the old FPTP system, he would have lost to Palin. Those votes would have been lost.

Under the RCV system, these second choice votes are still counted. 19% of Begich’s second choice votes went to Palin, and 5% went to Peltota. That proved that Pelota not only had strong core support but also broad support.

In other words, votes do matter, it is not the counting that matters.

March 2, 2024 11:58 am
Reply to  Dave Draper

The claim that “(Begich) has more total votes in a head-to-head contest against both Peltola and Palin” is plainly incorrect. If only first-choice votes are counted, Begich lost to both Peltola and Palin – it is for this reason he was eliminated in the first round of counting. We cannot assume how people would have voted if there were only two candidates in the race.

Ultimately, Ranked Choice Voting gave voters a greater say in this election than it would have in a FPTP election. More of their views were considered, and the winner received a majority of the vote. If FPTP had been used for this election, and the same three candidates ran, assuming voters voted as they did for their first-ranked candidates, Peltola would still have won.

In sum: for every problem which can be identified with RCV, FPTP has the same or worse. There is no sense in which FPTP is a better voting system. There are better voting systems than RCV, yes, but letting perfect be the enemy of better is a mistake which leaves worse off in the long run.

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