This is Reform #2 in a three-part series on how to make all our votes count equally.
Currently, the winner of the presidential election is the person who gets the majority of electoral votes. If we change to a popular vote system, it would be the person who gets the majority of votes. We'd still want to vote for the person we like best, among the candidates who actually have a chance.
I'm not stupid. I knew in 2008 that Ralph Nader didn't have a chance. I also knew that even if he were president, he probably wouldn't be terribly effective, given his "outsider" status, his extreme views, and his general demeanor. I voted for Nader because his views align most closely with mine, and I wanted to make it clear that neither Obama nor McCain was my first choice.
If we used some version of ranked voting, votes would count even if the first choice isn't one of the two favorites. In these systems, voters rank their choices, and a computation determines which candidate is the winner. For example, in run-off voting, first choice votes are counted and if there is no majority winner, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and those votes are re-apportioned to the second choide candidates. This is repeated until there's a majority winner. In the Condorcet method, the winner is the candidate who, when compared with every other candidate, is preferred by more voters. I don't really care which method is used, as long as I get to vote honestly, for the best candidate, and my vote is counted.