Though Kansas Democrats’ transition to mail-in ballots for the coming primary is itself increasingly important because of COVID-19 and social distancing concerns, the initiative — when paired with Ranked Choice Voting — will eliminate “wasted votes” and empower voters, said Jason Grill.
“It’s just a better way. It’s innovative. It’s something that more people are considering both on the local level and state level,” said Grill, public affairs consultant for Fairvote, a nonpartisan organization championing representative democracy for Americans through the Ranked Choice Voting platform.
“At the time of COVID-19, it’s huge because elections have been postponed throughout the country,” added Grill, the exited co-founder of Sock 101, attorney and media personality. “People don’t want to be in a polling place right now.”
Click here to learn more about Fairvote and Ranked Choice Voting.
On Monday, registered Kansas Democrats received ballots by mail for the state’s May 2 presidential primary, allowing for increased civic involvement in an uncertain time, Grill said, noting Kansas is one of four states in the current election cycle to adopt Ranked Choice Voting.
How it works: The new Ranked Choice Voting structure allows voters to rank candidates listed on a ballot in order of preference, with the vote being counted on the second choice if the first does not receive at least 15 percent of the majority, Grill explained.
“It gives the power back to the voter essentially,” he said. “So at the beginning of the presidential campaign, there might have been 30 candidates on the Democratic ticket and there are people that early-voted or cast their votes for a candidate that later withdrew and are no longer in the race. There would be no wasted votes in ranked choice voting.”
“It’s all about easy,” he added. “It’s all about making it easier to vote for people but giving them more choice and giving the voter more power, and it enables voters to vote their conscience. It’s a no-brainer in my opinion.”
Voter mechanisms in the U.S. have been historically slow to adopt change, but with the need for alternative solutions in the COVID-19 era, more innovative perspectives would be welcome, Grill said.
“Every state has a different system and that creates a lot of issues, and in certain states there isn’t a mechanism for mail voting — it’s always been ‘go to the polls’ and pick your one candidate,” he said.
“In Missouri — in the Democratic primary that happened in March — there were over 20 candidates on the ballot, so essentially, I had to pick one person and maybe I liked someone more, but I thought, ‘Hey, this candidate had raised the most money or has the best chance to win the primary, so therefore I have to vote for this person, even though I really don’t want to.’ It’s just so arcane to do it like that,” he added.
Missouri could serve to take note from its neighbor state with its postponement of municipal elections until June 2, Grill said.
“They don’t have to choose between canceling elections and upholding the right to vote in democracy,” he said. “Elections are some of the last things to innovate — you know, you get direct mail pieces at your doorstep and people knocking on doors — but making it more responsive to voters is always a good thing. I’m pretty pumped that Kansas is doing this.”
With $400 million within the recent Congressional stimulus bill open for use with election security, innovation is “up for grabs,” he added.
“We’re going to all these changes right now, but [as] entrepreneurs, we have to be involved,” said Grill.