| The Kansas City Star Editorial Board | The Kansas City Star |
Missouri voters may soon get the chance to repair the state’s disastrous, dysfunctional politics . They should take it.
A group called Better Elections is now circulating a petition that would bring a version of instant runoff (sometimes called ranked choice) voting to statewide elections, as well as for congressional and state legislature races.
We urge Missouri voters to sign the petition and put the Better Elections plan on the ballot this year.
”Missouri voters who have signed Better Elections petitions in every county want more choices.
The proposal is less complicated than it sounds. First, Better Elections would eliminate partisan primaries: All voters would get the same ballot. The top four finishers would proceed to the general election.
It could be four Republicans. Or three Democrats and one Republican. Or two independents, one Republican and one Democrat. You get the idea. Simple, quick, easy.
And important. A nonpartisan ballot would increase voter interest, and turnout, because lesser-known candidates would have a chance to compete. It might lead to cross-party debates and joint appearances, providing Missourians with a better understanding of their options.
It would encourage more candidates to run. That’s especially important in down-ballot races, where dozens of candidates now run unopposed. Missourians need more choices, and Better Elections could help provide them.
But nonpartisan primaries are just one part of the Better Elections plan. The group also proposes what’s called instant runoff voting in the general election, starting in November 2024.
Under this system, all four candidates would be placed on the general election ballot. Voters could cast a ballot for a single candidate, or they could rank their choices.
If a candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, he or she is immediately declared the winner. If not, the candidate in last place drops off, and his or her second-choice votes are allocated to the remaining “active” candidates.
The process repeats until someone gets a majority.
The advantages of such a system seem evident. Candidates would have less incentive to pursue extremists. It could reduce attack ads and negative campaigning.
It might encourage more moderates to run. It would ensure the winning candidate has broad support from members of both parties. It would push Missouri politics to the middle.
That’s why moderate Republicans and Democrats are quietly backing the Better Elections model. They know, as most Missourians know, that the current winner-take-all partisan approach has given us a legislature that doesn’t work, a national government that is hopelessly divided, and a politics that disgusts most voters.
To be sure, the Better Elections amendment won’t solve every political problem in the state, as its supporters recognize . Ultimately, voters must pick candidates who reflect their values and needs — that won’t change overnight.
But the proposal holds out the chance of breaking the fever that has infected our politics. “Missouri voters who have signed Better Elections petitions in every county want more choices,” said Scott Charton, a spokesman for the group. “They are excited that our amendment empowers them to hold politicians accountable if they lose their way.”
The Better Elections plan also requires testing and certification for voting machines, and special elections to fill empty seats. Those are important provisions in the plan.
It would take roughly 160,000 valid petition signatures from across six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts to put the plan on the ballot. It would take a simple majority of voters to enact the reforms.
Resistance will be fierce. Entrenched politicians prefer divided politics — it’s always easier to do nothing and blame the other side. New systems can be confusing, and incumbents can be counted on to further muddy the water.
But dozens of cities have adopted instant runoff election systems, as have Alaska and Maine. Missourians should at least get the chance to decide if they’d like to do the same.
Sign the petition if you’re asked. Put Better Elections on the ballot. Let Missourians decide.