Election steal” took on a whole new meaning in Florida this year — and it has exposed a vulnerability in how we vote that invites more hacks in the future without an election method upgrade.
Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez’s state Senate re-election campaign was certain to be close. Rodriguez’s challenger, Ileana Garcia, was well-funded and the co-founder of Latinas for Trump. Still, Rodriguez was optimistic and garnered key endorsements from police unions and teachers unions alike.
Then a third “independent” candidate materialized. Intriguingly, Alex Rodriguez shared a surname with the incumbent. But little else could be determined about him.
He did not appear for candidate forums or debates or have a campaign website. He didn’t raise a single dollar other than a small loan from himself. When a local TV station asked him for a picture, he didn’t respond.
It’s almost as if Alex Rodriguez wanted to run for office without anyone knowing who he was. It’s as if Alex Rodriguez appeared on the ballot to potentially confuse supporters of Jose Javier Rodriguez, and perhaps siphon away crucial votes in a competitive contest.
Sure enough, Ileana Garcia defeated Rodriguez by the tightest of margins — just 34 votes. Alex Rodriguez, meanwhile, received more than 6,000 votes despite not running a campaign.
Now Florida prosecutors are looking into whether Alex Rodriguez might have been a shadow candidate, propped up by people looking to spoil the race. He now claims he doesn’t even live in the district…..
A better approach would be ranked choice voting, a proven tool that gives voters the power to rank candidates in order rather than just pick one. Already the law in Alaska and Maine for presidential elections, ranked choice voting is fair to candidates and voters alike and makes this kind of democracy-damaging mischief-making impossible.
Boosting “spoilers” only works because in a single-round system, it’s possible for a candidate to win with less than half the vote when more than two candidates run. Ranked choice voting gives voters an insurance policy. If a candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, they win, like any other election.
But if no one reaches that mark, an instant runoff takes place. The candidate in last place is eliminated, and his or her votes are counted for each voter’s next choice.