Posted March 10, 2023
In a dimly lit suburban home in Menomonie, Wisconsin, a recent event featured cheese, bread and wine. The reason: final five voting.
Leading the affair was Bob Maline, a Hudson-area resident and board member from the western Wisconsin grassroots organization GROWW Action.
In the audience were 14 individuals from the Menomonie community. They gathered in the living room on couches and chairs to listen about one of GROWW Action’s projects called “Bridge the Divide.”
“Bridge the Divide” seeks to implement a ranked choice voting system in Wisconsin, according to Maline.
“This is in order to reduce the divisiveness in elections, and really in our communities,” he said.
The system, called “final five voting,” is a combination of two features, Maline said.
“One is a multi-party, multi-winner primary. The other is an instant runoff or ranked choice general election,” he said.
Final five voting is not just a project for GROWW Action, but also the focus of a bill expected to be re-introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature, Maline said.
Last legislative session, State Senators Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) and Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) introduced SB 250, which called for top-five primaries for certain national offices. Despite picking up 20 bipartisan co-sponsors, the bill did not make it out of committee.
Although the bill did not pass, there is a chance of it being re-introduced, Maline said.
“The sponsors of this bill are planning on making a push in the fall,” he said.
To demonstrate how final five voting works, Maline had all the guests in Menomonie participate in a ranked choice vote amongst five of the cheeses which were presented to them at the beginning of the presentation. The five choices of cheese were parmesan, gorgonzola, cheddar, Colby and gouda. From those five, audience members ranked their favorite to least favorite and submitted their vote on a sheet of paper. Maline then tallied and reported the results in accordance with final five voting.
Similar house parties have been held around western Wisconsin.
During the mock election with the cheeses, every ballot filled out by guests was valid, according to Maline.
“It gives people more of a voice…I feel like it’ll free up a lot of people to vote for who they really want to and not feel like they’re throwing out their vote,” an individual at the presentation said.
“The No. 1 reason that individuals give (against final five voting) is that it’s too complicated,” Maline said. “We have evidence that it’s not. We have done this demonstration election for 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds. It works.”
Ranked choice voting is present in other U.S. states. Alaska utilizes ranked choice voting in its state elections, and other cities around the nation also partake in this voting system, Maline stated.
“Twenty-three cities in Utah use ranked choice voting for their municipal elections. Minneapolis and St. Paul and some other Twin Cities suburbs use ranked choice voting,” he said.
“Americans are tired of only having two viable choices,” Maline said. “This is a real tangible thing that we can do to help give people more hope that their voice really matters in elections.”
If passed, the final five voting bill would affect the U.S. Senate and House of Representative races in Wisconsin.
“They are looking at doing this piecemeal,” said Maline. “The first law would apply to our federal offices.”
To learn more about GROWW Action or final five voting visit gro-wwaction.org.