• Ranked-Choice Voting Is Getting A Rebrand In Montana (Don't Be Fooled)

    By Staff
    April 16, 2024
    1 Comment

    by Alex Paul

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    This March, we had the opportunity to engage with Aiden, one of the new hires at Montanans for Election Reform, an organization actively advocating for Constitutional Initiatives 126 and 127. Aiden, despite his limited knowledge on these petition topics, was open and willing to share his perspective. These petitions, now rebranded in Montana as “Majority Winner Petitions” or “Open Primaries”, are a significant part of his work at MFER.

    From the beginning, Aiden was friendly and allowed us to record our interview. He also allowed us to take photos of the Petition language and answered all the questions as best as possible. As it turns out, Aiden didn’t know much about what the petition was for, how elections currently work, or about politics. He said he was desperate for money and that Montanans for Election Reform pays him $25.00/hour to collect signatures. MFER ads have been on recruiting sites for months. Aiden is a short-term employee and plans to be deployed with the Montana National Guard in May (before primaries happen here). He had some canned talking points about what he’s doing in the field, including using the term “Open Primaries” and saying that the petitions are an attempt to allow rural voters better access to who is elected. Making elections more “fair,” but he could not explain how they did so. 

    Despite our attempts to delve into the topic, Aiden's comprehension of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), the actual term for 'Open Primaries' or 'Majority Winner' elections, was lacking. He was unaware of its usage, success, and fairness in other contexts, further highlighting his unfamiliarity with the subject.

    The following is a transcript of the interview.

    Q: Can I interview you?

    A: Oh yeah, for what?

    Q:  I’m curious what you are doing.

    A:  Oh yeah, we are creating a petition

    Q:  Can you tell me who you’re with?

    A:  Montanans for Elections Reform (Montanansforelectionreform.com), and we are currently trying to create two petitions. The first is to develop Open Primaries for Montana, and the second is to create a majority of votes. The first means that the four primary candidates with the most votes move to the general election, regardless of their party. Then, the Majority Winner Initiative says that a candidate must win more than 50% of the votes to win an election. This forces them to campaign not just in the urban areas but also in rural areas to get the majority. This would bring more representation to the regions that politicians do not focus on or look at.

    Q: Did you know that the states that have implemented Ranked Choice Voting are currently in the process of legislating away Ranked Choice Voting?

    A: No, I didn’t know that.

    Q:  Did you know that Ranked Choice Voting was implemented in the 1960s, and it was quickly undone to go back to regular voting?

    A: I did not know that.

    Interviewer: So we have tried this in several places, even recently in several states, that are working to abolish it.

    Aiden: Yeah, Alaska, I heard.

    Interviewer: Alaska, yes, and I believe there is one other state right now

    Q: I wonder if you had heard of Ranked Choice Voting before you started working for the company you’re working for or if this is a new endeavor for you.

    A:  This is a new endeavor for me, as I’m in the United States National Guard or Montana National Guard.

    Interviewer: Oh, thank you for your service

    Aiden: I just got back and am trying to find a job, and I saw this one and shot for it.

    Interviewer: OK. You already answered one of my questions about looking into Ranked Choice Voting in Alaska. You know they are doing that there and trying to abolish it. That did not work for them.

    Aiden: Yeah, I heard somebody mention that here today.

    Interviewer: Okay, excellent. I do know of a resource for you for your education purposes. A website you can start with is StopRCV.com. You don’t have to remember that but can Google the terms.

    Q:  Can you explain to me, from your perspective, how Ranked Choice Voting works?

    A:  Um, I’m going to be honest. I don’t know much about politics, so I don’t know the answer. 

    Interviewer: OK, fair enough.

    Aiden: Sorry about that

    Interviewer: That’s ok!

    Q: You may not be able to answer this one, but as you don’t know much about it, this is your first time around. 

    Are you personally for or against it? (Ranked Choice Voting)

    A: I’m entirely neutral.

    Q: Okay, the next question is tough since you don’t have any experience, but if you can try to answer it, please do. (Aiden, yeah, sure, go ahead.) Have you considered that Ranked-Choice Voting is bad for free and fair elections?

    A:  Based on the opinions I’ve heard here in the parking lot and at the library, yes, I-there have been some negatives, as it would go against one of the senators (can’t remember names) that people feel is a weak candidate, trying to get him to be in the Montana senator, I guess?

    Interviewer: I haven’t heard that one.

    Aiden: But also I feel it’s good because it’s also opening it to urban, and um, urban areas and rural areas, and giving everybody a chance to get involved in their voting and that way politicians are advertising in their areas so that (good) as well.

    Q: Can you tell me who explained Ranked Choice Voting to you?

    A:  Um, so far, nobody has explained it to me

    Interviewer: Oh, the company didn’t train you in that?

    Aiden: The Ranked Choice Voting? No. I was just explained what my job was and what to say, and get people on board, and see what happens.

    Q:  OK so that is another question; when you took the job, the company that’s hiring, that hired you, didn’t explain anything on the Ranked Choice Voting and the petition gathering?

    A: Not specifically training on that, but training on what it’s like in the field, and working with people on communication skills, and basically what our objective is, so to get, eh signatures for this, or signatures for this, because um, as Montana is 40% Independent, which is our biggest populations are all independents, so that’s mostly what I’ve been informed on. Again, my memory, they could have taught me, but my memory’s not too good after a couple of incidents.

    Interviewer: OK, a couple of incidents; I hope those weren’t negative.

    Aiden: No, they were all military (military service-related)

    Q: What are your thoughts after being out here, talking with people, and trying to explain what you’re doing? Maybe you're starting to form an opinion on what you’re doing, the process of it, and the petition itself, what it’s trying to do. What are your thoughts on the need to have the right information for people?

    A:  I feel it’s super important

    Q: Can you explain how Ranked Choice Voting works?

    A: No, because I really don’t know what it is; I’m sorry. I can say that it is meant to be a more fair way to reach rural voters, forcing candidates to canvass and reach out to them more if they want to win. This sounds good for rural voters, and it will make it easier for more people to vote.

    (We want to note that this petition is not gathering signatures of said “Rural Voters” but rather staying in city centers to get the signatures of city voters).

    Q: Have you considered that Ranked Choice Voting is bad for free and fair elections?

    A: No, because I am just getting started and don’t know much about it yet. I just needed a job, really.

    Q: How will judges be able to audit the elections after they have been subject to a Ranked Choice Voting election?

    A: I have no idea how they can do that. Yeah, that seems like it would be kinda tough.

    Before this, Aiden said he had never heard of Ranked-Choice Voting. We informed him that he should learn more about the impact of what he is doing out here, for good or for bad, paid or not. We encouraged him to learn more about Ranked Choice Voting. Remember, you are about to swim into the propaganda deep end. These signature gatherers are hired through online ads by Montanans for Election Reform and Landslide Political (Houston, TX, firm paid by MFER). They require the gathering persons to collect at least 40 signatures daily, and Landslide boasts they require an hourly number.  If this is how they get the job done, how do we know forgery won’t be taking place to bump up their numbers to keep their job?  If you are concerned, your name may be signed to a petition this year, and you do not intend to be included, or if you have already signed and regret it, don't hesitate to contact the Montana Secretary of State to remove your name.

    The information flier below includes some resources to investigate. It is not a product of The Montana Sentinel or our authors.  

    Public Domain

    We encourage all readers here to ask these employees a lot of questions. We don’t know everything about RCV, which might be the most significant argument for not allowing it to bypass our legislature and go straight to the operating table. Looking into how this is being funded, one should ask, “Where is all this money coming from, and why do other states want to change OUR Montana?” Haven’t we had enough of this? It’s your call.

    In summary, not enough people know what Majority Winner, Ranked Choice Voting, Open Primary, Instant Runoff, Plurality Loser, or any other name RCV goes by to make an on-the-street decision to open the Montana State Constitution up for surgery and change it forever.  If you have not investigated this topic, or seen where the money comes from to support the push in all states, why it does not work, or how in states where it has failed and is failing now the voters are working to repeal it, then you should probably think twice before signing the CI-126 and CI-127 petitions. Ranked-choice voting, where it is being used, such as in Alaska, New York City, Maine, and several other states and municipalities, complicates the voting process. If we believe our systems work, why would we need to reform them? If there is no problem with elections, why change anything? And if we DO have issues, why are we not investigating those problems instead of first trying to change the Constitution of the State of Montana?  We don’t ask enough questions as Americans. We think it isn’t nice.  Question everything.

    “Never lose a holy curiosity.”--Albert Einstein







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    William Gillin

    Thank you for informing us of this dangerous tactic. Conservatives in Alaska are furious that rcv in a red state got them a Democrat congress woman.

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