| Star-Ledger Guest ∙ T.J. Magno, Op-Ed |

On Nov. 2, just 37.8% of registered New Jersey voters cast a ballot to choose the state’s governor for the next four years. In an election that was decided by less than 100,000 votes, over 4 million registered voters decided not to cast a ballot. Similarly, many local races attracted even fewer voters to the polls, with many races decided by less than 1,000 votes.

Politics does not have to be a zero-sum game.

Such close election outcomes — for example, Democrat Phil Murphy held off Republican Jack Ciattarelli by about 3% — might suggest that New Jerseyans are decisively split into one of two political camps. It might even suggest an underlying “us vs. them” political mindset. According to Pew Research, after the 2020 presidential election, 90% of both Democrats and Republicans believed that should the “other side” win the country’s direction would be concerning and ultimately lead to lasting harm.

However, many of us feel like our vote doesn’t matter in our current first-past-the-post voting system. It stifles our voices across the state’s 21 counties, so we are never truly heard. Many of us feel like we have to choose between the lesser of two evils or worry about “wasting” our vote on an ideal yet long-shot candidate, especially in local races where people feel that status quo politics rules while public participation, transparency and accountability are an after-thought.

Before you lose hope or feel the need to pick a side, consider this: how could we say our state is so divided without knowing what those other 4 million New Jerseyans think? Politics does not have to be a zero-sum game. We’re all Americans, all New Jerseyans, and all in this democratic experiment together.

Ranked-choice voting would improve our democracy by giving each of us more choice and more voice at the polls.

You might have heard about ranked-choice voting from New York City’s primary election last June featuring Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang, among several other candidates. Nearly 1 million New Yorkers cast a ranked-choice ballot across the Democratic and Republican primaries by ranking up to five candidates in order of their preference.

In New York City, candidates campaigned together. Organizations co-endorsed candidates and even ranked their endorsements. The Big Apple is set to have its most diverse City Council. While many voters didn’t see their first pick for city councilor, borough president, or mayor win, they saw their second or third choices succeed. By amplifying our political voice, we could empower more of our family, friends, and neighbors to actually be heard and feel that their vote can really make a difference.

Politics is far from sexy, I know. But it is through politics we can tackle economic issues, rebuild our roads and bridges, counter climate change, and define the community in which we want to live. Rather than being forced into a false dichotomy between Democrat vs. Republican, this one simple change of ranking candidates in the order we prefer them can help us fix the problems that truly need fixing.

I’m working to make sure we have a voting system that allows us to more effectively and efficiently elect the representatives best suited to enact the change we hope to see. Ranked Choice Voting could help us do just that.

TJ Magno is the co-founder and a sitting board member ofRanked Choice NY, a nonpartisan voter education nonprofit geared toward making elections fairer through Ranked Choice Voting. He lives in Hoboken.

Read full articleJoin the Movement