In the midst of the wettest October on record, the right poem made its way to me. It would be easy to imagine that Robert Frost wrote “A Line-Storm Song” about this season in the Northwest, though of course he didn’t and it’s about much more than the weather. The last stanza breaks my heart in a curious way.
A friend of mine, and former Sightline intern (of “legalize clotheslines” fame), Jon Howland, and his colleagues at the Seattle school where he teaches, are donating two vans to the courageous, dedicated people taking a stand to protect water, people, culture, land, and climate from yet another massive fossil fuel pipeline at Standing Rock. They are sending the vans from Seattle to the camps in North Dakota, fully loaded with the supplies that folks there need. And the vans will be used as school rooms once they arrive. If your heart is in Standing Rock the way mine is but, like me, you can’t be there yourself, you can help pay for gas and other expenses to get them there. Check out the GoFundMe site for the trip. And go here to learn more about the Defenders of the Water School—Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa—on-site education that’s been set up for children of the protectors, and find out other ways to support them.
NPR reported last week on Maine voters’ opportunity on November 8th to trail blaze an alternative voting system “in which they elect officials by ranking them in order of preference instead of choosing just one.” Yep! Ranked choice voting! It’s nice to see this stuff in the national press.
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Maine campaigners are helping voters get used to how it works by having them taste test and then rank beers at a pub. Brilliant (since at least one obstacle to changing to better voting systems is probably simply the familiarity and comfort we have with the system we already know). In the case of beer, a distinctive taste at the extreme (pumpkin brew or a stout made with peanut butter, anyone?) wouldn’t win even with a plurality of devotees’ votes (which would deliver victory in a winner-take-all ballot), but a mellower, crowd-pleasing beer could win because more people liked it and ranked it high—even if they didn’t rank it as their favorite. As Kyle Bailey who leads Maine’s ranked choice voting campaign puts it, “Ranked choice voting gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying you’ll help to elect the candidate you like the least, without feeling like your vote is wasted.” So, in other words, you can vote for the pumpkin ale as your first choice and a pilsner as your second. Even if pumpkin gets eliminated, your second vote for the pilsner still counts and the winner is more likely to be a beer you enjoy drinking.
Translated to politics, this means candidates who appealed to the most voters overall would land the office. Kristin Eberhard has written a bunch about why ranked choice gives voters more choices (you can vote for the pilsner AND the pumpkin or peanut butter and both votes count), keeps candidates accountable to a broader range of supporters, including women and people of color rather than appealing only to their base (the pilsners win because they don’t alienate with extreme tastes), and reduce negativity in campaigning (bitter attacks only get you the IPA die-hards while losing 2nd place votes from the lighter beer connoisseurs). The Maine campaign manager puts it this way: “The system gives voters more choice, more voice. No more strategic voting… more chances for centrist candidates and fewer extremists.”