Are you tired of electoral spoilers?

Some are suggesting ranked choice voting is the answer

ADAM FRIEDMAN CALLS it being Nadered.

In the 2012 congressional race in the 6th District, Democrat John Tierney won with 48 percent of the vote. Republican Richard Tisei came in second with 47 percent of the vote. Libertarian Dan Fishman was way out of the running, but he may have been the deciding factor in the race as he garnered 4.5 percent of the vote.

In the 2010 election for governor, Democrat Deval Patrick emerged victorious with 48 percent of the vote. Republican Charlie Baker came in second with 42 percent of the vote and Independent Tim Cahill was a distant third at 8 percent. Was Cahill’s participation a deciding factor?

In the 2014 race for governor, a similar dynamic was at play. Baker won with 48 percent of the vote, narrowly edging Democrat Martha Coakley who received nearly 47 percent. Evan Falchuk, a third-party candidate, garnered 3.3 percent, which may have been the difference in the election.

Adam Friedman, of Voter Choice Massachusetts, said all of these elections are examples where a third party candidate may have “Nadered” the would-be challenger, a reference to Ralph Nader’s bid for the presidency in 2000 on the Green Party ticket. Nader won a measly 3 percent of the vote, but in a razor-thin race where Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college, Nader is widely viewed as the spoiler who cost the Democrats a victory.

Friedman says if voters are tired of these kinds of results they should support his effort to bring ranked choice voting to Massachusetts. Appearing on the Codcast with Jennifer Nassour and Jesse Mermell, Friedman answered their questions about how ranked choice voting would work.

“Ranked choice voting is a very simple change to the way you vote. It’s nothing super radical. I see it like an amendment or an addendum on the ballot,” Friedman said.

Instead of casting a ballot for one candidate, under ranked choice the voter ranks all the candidates from first choice to last choice. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote on the first ballot, the candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated and his supporters are dispersed to the person listed as second choice on their ballots. The process continues until a single candidate emerges with a majority of the vote.

Ranked choice voting also prevents what happened in the race for the Third Congressional seat last year. Lori Trahan won the crowded Democratic primary with 22 percent of the vote, which means 78 percent of the voters did not select her as the winner. “That’s not democracy. That’s not right,” Friedman said.

Friedman said ranked choice voting gives voters a choice and a voice. He is trying to build support in the Legislature for the approach. One bill he is promoting would institute ranked choice voting for all federal and state elections; the other would allow municipalities to give the approach a shot with local elections.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Not everyone is on board. Paul Schlichtmann, a member of the Arlington Democratic Town Committee, thinks ranked choice voting wouldn’t work well in Massachusetts, but Friedman’s allies in Massachusetts disagree. Friedman says the biggest challenge his group faces is explaining to voters how ranked choice voting would work.

“Once people get it, they tend to love it,” he said. “Your vote is never wasted. Your vote is always in play.”