Clarifications about ranked-choice voting

In response to “Ranked-Choice Voting gaining speed in Mass,” published December 19-25, 2019.

Thanks for your recent article about ranked choice voting (RCV). It’ll be a very important topic in Massachusetts in 2020, so it’s great to see the notice it’s getting. I’d like to elaborate on a few points, however.

It’s important to clarify that, rather than voters being “able to vote for their second favorite, third, fourth, and last-pick choice,” they instead rank the candidates, and have only one vote. Their highest choice retains their support as long as they aren’t eliminated for having the least votes.

The article also mentioned that Amherst “has been looking at adopting the voting system for its local elections.” In fact, Amherst citizens adopted RCV as part of their new charter in March 2018, so it’s actually the first community in the Pioneer Valley to do so. The RCV Commission is tasked with coming up with the detailed implementation, which the Town Council is required to approve (possibly with amendments). Both Amherst and Easthampton will have their first use of RCV in November 2021.

Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance thinks that preliminary elections are better. But they typically have low turnout compared to the general election, and vote splitting in a crowded field can still affect who makes it to the runoff. For example, in Springfield’s six-candidate mayoral preliminary election in 2015, the second- and third-place finishers were separated by only 1.3% of the vote; they might have well have swapped places if supporters of the last three candidates could transfer their votes. RCV allows this and thereby prevents vote splitting, ensuring majority support of the winner in a single high-turnout election. Eliminating preliminary elections also saves money, a fiscal benefit for communities.

Craney also believes that the average voter needs to figure out who the “last two standing” would be. But this concern is irrelevant with RCV, where the voter can rank all of the candidates in order of preference, which surveys show is easy for them to understand. Their ranking will then apply in every round of the instant runoff until one candidate wins a majority.

— Andy Anderson, Amherst

No War with Iran

President Trump recently ordered an air strike that killed a top Iranian commander Qassim Suleimani as well as others in Iraq. This followed an attack on the U.S. Embassy by Iranian-backed militia in Iraq. The architects of the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq are bellowing for all-out war with Iran on Fox News and wherever else they can get a forum. Have we learned nothing from the disastrous eight-year war in Iraq, based on a lie, that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, 2,400 U.S. soldiers, and left tens of thousands of U.S. war veterans suicidal, homeless, with PTSD and against that war? Have we learned nothing from the recent revelation that our nearly 20-year unhinged war in Afghanistan lacked purpose, lacked “progress,” lacked a moral compass and placed that country in the hands of the Taliban?

We had a carefully monitored agreement with Iran in which they agreed to eliminate their capacity to make nuclear weapons for our dropping economic sanctions that were strangling their economy. Renouncing that agreement and baiting Iran to war — at a point in which we are given 10 years to pull the world back from climate catastrophe, as Australia is experiencing — manifests the truth of the poet John Milton’s lines: “For what can war but endless war still breed.”

— Pat Hynes, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice

My own bed-wetting experience

In response to “Clueless Parent: My years-long struggle, and solution, to my son’s bed wetting,” published Dec. 26, 2019-Jan 1, 2020.

My experience was VERY QUICK, as I remember it. I lost a lot of confidence at the hands of my father — whom I love very much — but who punished and embarrassed me over the bed wetting. I was in my early teens when I finally stopped. The year was probably 1963 or ‘64.

My mother ordered our machine. It was two sheets of thin aluminum, the top one having many penny-sized holes, which we separated by a cotton-like disposable sheet of “paper.” The wires attached to the aluminum.

Again, I think it only took me a few days to be trained to wake up. I remained a deep sleeper for years. Sadly, I am no longer as I age. But, I never wet the bed again.

I will be forever grateful for that machine. BTW: Later (?) my mother told me that my father was a bed wetter. Go figure.

Glad you got your son the help he needed. All pediatricians should be informed of the quickness and efficiency of them.

— Stuart Krantz, Williamsburg