Letter to the Editor: Tired Of Negative Politics? We Are Too!

RCV JAX Team

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and dedicated citizens can change the world.  Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” That quote from Margaret Mead perfectly encapsulates a new nonpartisan grassroots effort underway here in Jacksonville to help improve future municipal elections for all. Why should college students care about that? I’ll get there. Bear with me.   

In the aftermath of the Spring 2019 city elections that saw very low voter turnout (24% in the first round and 14% in the second round) and a lot of negative/personal attack ads, a small group of citizens got together and decided that we can do better as a city, and RCVJAX.ORG was born. (There is also a statewide org rankmyvoteflorida.org working to bring RCV to the rest of Florida!)  

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is not a panacea for all of our electoral & governmental problems, but it most definitely can be a critical part of the solution. As former Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland stated at a recent Charter Revision Commission hearing, using RCV would save the City of Jacksonville $1.2 million dollars by eliminating the need for the run-off round of future municipal elections–that’s the equivalent of 21 teachers’ salaries!  

“I voted” stickers.

Not only that, RCV would save all of our citizens from 8 more needless weeks of enduring campaign ads, mailers, calls, and having to go out to vote again (which very few do anyway for the second round run off). In short, RCV will help end voter fatigue.    

The neat thing about RCV is that it usually results in more positive, issue-oriented, solution-oriented campaigns because candidates quickly realize that “going negative” is not a rewarded behavior with RCV. Candidates can no longer focus just on their base and use fear to scare enough undecideds to vote for them. If you attack an opponent too much, the supporters of that opponent will be less likely to list you as a second or third choice.

RCV JAX has done some preliminary outreach to the City Council, Mayor, and Charter Revision Commission asking them all to consider taking up ranked choice voting. While they are the preferred implementation route for the next city elections currently scheduled for 2023, RCV JAX is not waiting to see if they take action and has begun a petition drive to put a local measure on the November 2020 ballot for the citizens to decide–but we need your help!

But wait, didn’t I say I’d explain why college students should care about this? Yes, yes I did. So about that, did you know that over 70 universities around the country (including Harvard, MIT, Georgetown, UCLA, and Michigan) use RCV for everything from student government elections to how faculty are chosen for committees?  

Furthermore, all of the big issues that need to be addressed that will be affecting our younger generations, like climate change, the national debt, student loan debt, the job market, etc, cannot and will not be dealt with until we fix our broken political system so that we get candidates that are solution oriented and willing to work together. RCV is just one of several key electoral reforms like ending gerrymandering, opening up primaries, and campaign finance reform that will go a long way towards breaking the negative, downward spiral of our national conversation and start an upward, positive spiral in its place. But RCV isn’t going to get passed nationally until we get it passed at the local and state level first.  

So, having said all that, there are several ways you can help. We are looking for people (don’t have to be Duval residents) to help collect petitions in person, but just as critically we need people to contact voters via phone, email, and text. Even an hour a week helps! Just go to rcvjax.org and see what ways of helping out sound of interest to you, or email us if you think you have other ideas of how you can help.  

You can also print out the petition and mail it in if you are registered to vote in Duval County. 

We can sign off on your volunteer hours as well if you need it, since we are a nonpartisan, not for profit Florida organization.     

In closing, let me just say that we are as grassroots of an organization as you can get and do not have big dollars backing us. If we are able to bring this game-changing reform to Jacksonville, it will be 100% people powered, and that would be a really cool and profound statement.  

If you want to change the world for the better, you need to start locally. Even the mightiest waterfall begins from a single drop of water. This is your chance. We hope you join us.

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