The Covid-19 pandemic and its lingering effects have captured the attention of many Americans over the past several years. It certainly has changed our lives in how we work, play, and socialize. We are sifting through its after-effects, such as surging inflation and rising interest rates, and the toll it has taken on youth regarding diminishing education achievement and their overall mental health. Gun violence is at an all-time high. We survived the wearying years of a Trump presidency and escaped the predicted Republican “red wave,” which gave the GOP a slim majority in the House, still enough to damage the nation. Democrats maintain the slimmest hold on the Senate. And that’s not nearly the entire story.
Many issues got submerged in the whirlwind. Economic inequality continues to grow unabated. Climate catastrophe marches on with not nearly the attention it deserves. Our fragile democracy hangs in the balance, with the shameless ex-President seeking to bring his chaos back to the White House. Misinformation has become the norm. One must have a strong bullshit detector and deflector to comprehend what we hear through various media. In the meantime, true believers march on in the face of these strong headwinds—with the Poor People’s Campaign, led by Rev. Dr. William Barber, bringing their grievances to Capitol Hill last week, reminding the nation’s leaders that poverty, while not on the front burner, is affecting millions of people in this land of plenty.
As Jessie Jackson once avowed, we must “Keep Hope Alive.” That’s what social workers do. That’s why we exist, to bring hope to those who are vulnerable and believe they have been forgotten. We’re on the ground working with individuals, families, and communities, helping people cope with day-to-day challenges. We are running organizations advocating and working for change. We are in universities and think tanks researching and creating evidence-based interventions and policies to mitigate suffering. And we are in legislative arenas working to enact laws that foment needed change and helping to elect people with a passion for helping the afflicted.
CRISP embarked on an initiative beginning in 2018, guided by the question: Can Social Work Helped Save Democracy? which morphed into the Social Work Democracy Project. While identifying threats to democracy led by Mimi Abramovitz, who has done this work for decades, we began looking for promising responses. One engaging idea is Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), which showed promise but soon seemed lost in the political stew. However, there are signs of its resurgence as an alternative to the current Democratic-Republican duopoly. Most recently, RCV was used in Virginia’s Arlington County Board election in a six-way primary for two open seats. Rep. Don Beyer praised the method for rewarding candidates who build diverse coalitions and are likely to prevail over candidates with extreme positions.
New York City residents will use RCV in the June 27 City Council primary elections. Voters in the five boroughs overwhelmingly approved a citywide ballot initiative in 2019. RCV was used in the 2021 primaries for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, City Council, and a few special elections since the beginning of that year. While some disagree, many believe RCV helped propel Mayor Eric Adams to victory in the 2021 Democratic mayoral primary.
According to FairVote, 52 jurisdictions in the United States have adopted RCV as of June 2023, affecting approximately 13 million voters. This includes two states (Maine and Alaska), 47 cities, and three counties. Nevada voters approved using 5-choice RCV in a 2022 ballot initiative. However, under state law, it must pass again in 2024. The organization Represent Women is launching an effort to promote RCV in my home state Maryland. I look forward to supporting that effort.