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Instant Run-Off Voting is an Answer

Optical scan IRV ballot

Image via Wikipedia

In the August 10th Los Angeles Times Op-Ed “Don’t Look For An Indie Miracle” by Seth Masket and Hans Noel, the authors, two distinguished professors, Masket from The University of Denver, and Noel, from Georgetown University, argue that the Major  parties’ power dooms any outside runs at the presidency. They cite the French scholar Maurice Duverger’s Law which in essence says; “in a winner-take-all election, (as ours is – my parenthesis), [voters] know there’s virtually no chance for a third-most-popular candidate winning. Better to determine which of the top candidates wins. So they vote for the least objectionable of the candidates with a real shot at winning” They go on to enumerate all the disadvantages a winning third-party candidate would have anyway i.e., no support in congress, no party in his corner etc. They conclude with the suggestion that “one of the best ways to change [this] is to get very involved with one of the existing parties”

With, as they say, all due respect, there is another solution. The answer to our electoral inability to choose the best man or woman in the race lies in a concerted nation-wide effort to force our bought-and-sold Congress, under threat of not re-electing any of them who demur, to propose, and ratify, a Constitutional Amendment making Instant Run-Off Voting the law of the land. Simply put Instant Run-Off Voting or IRV works like this; let’s say there are three candidates in the race, or even four, when you cast your vote you list your preference in numerical order, your first choice, your second choice, your third choice etc. If your first choice doesn’t win the popular vote, then your vote goes to your second choice, if that person doesn’t win, then your vote goes to your third choice, and so on. For example, in the Gore v. Bush race if you instead wanted to vote for Ralph Nader but couldn’t, fearing it would be essentially a wasted vote, and would perhaps help one of the other two candidates you didn’t particularly like to win, you’d hold your nose and vote for either Bush, or Gore. But with IRV you’d vote, for the sake of an example, thusly; 1. Nader, 2. Gore, etc., So if  Nader didn’t win the popular vote, your vote would go to Gore, and would not then be wasted.

*17 cities and counties have passed ballot measures adopting IRV, including at least one every November since 2004. Eight of those jurisdictions have used IRV in elections. Two additional cities in North Carolina have used IRV as part of a pilot program. See exit polls done by local universities in several of these jurisdictions that show positive reactions to IRV by voters after using it. In addition, Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina all use IRV ballots for their overseas voters participating in runoff elections, and Springfield (IL) did so in 2011 after a 91% vote to adopt this practice in 2006. Since 1941, Cambridge, Mass., has used a similar ranked choice ballot in choice voting elections held citywide for its nine-seat city council and its school committee.)
In nongovernmental elections, IRV is widely used. Nearly 60 colleges and universities have adopted IRV for student elections (including this spring at Brandeis and Brown, where student voters passed it by lopsided margins), along with even more associations, including for the Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Pictures and for several governing bodies of associations with more than 100,000 members. Internationally, IRV has recently been adopted and used for electing mayors in cities like London (United Kingdom) and Wellington (New Zealand). It is used for national parliamentary elections in Australia and Papua New Guinea and for presidential elections in Ireland, which will next be held in October 2011.

It is in our countries best interest, if we want to take back control of our electoral process, that we all become aware of Instant Run-Off Voting, and that we all work to implement this important idea as soon as possible. This is a voting system which not only gets around the archaic Electoral College, and the “money” that owns Congress, but one which also guarantees that we at least have the chance get the best people we have into office.

* From Undernews. Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review.

© tony powers and Barking in the Dark, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to tony powers and Barking in the Dark with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About barkinginthedark

Tony Powers is a writer/actor/musician. His full bio may be seen by clicking on the picture, and then clicking on either of the 2 boxes below it.

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