Sample Legislative Testimony on IRV - Spring 2006Hello, my name is XXXXXX, XXXXXX of XXXXXX for FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy, a national non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Maryland.
XXXX is a bill on instant runoff voting that is more timely than ever, with XXXX facing several multi-candidate congressional races in the coming year.
As the 2000 presidential elections demonstrated, our electoral system is deeply flawed. The idea of “majority rule”, a government for the people and by the people seems elusive amid questions of outdated voting equipment.
Plurality voting, whereby the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins, is the problematic norm in what is known as the “American Experiment”.
In any races with three or more candidates, a winner can be elected with less than 50% of the vote. Two like-minded candidates can split their base of support, which can lead to the election of a candidate who is the polar opposite of the majority of voters.
Another key race in 2000: Washington State Republican incumbent Slade Gorton lost because of a Libertarian Party candidate who split the majority vote.
The spoiler effect is a pervasive stain on our democracy that knows no party boundaries, no geographic lines. The fear of split-voting affects more than the outcome of elections. It affects the way each of you carries out a campaign from start to finish. I bet there is not one of you who like the pressure of having to engage in negative campaigning to defeat those who hold similar views to you, but threaten to cut into your base support. We all know that negative campaigning drives down voter turnout and draws attention away from serious policy concerns in a campaign.
So, what is the solution? Well, if you ask Senator John McCain, or President-Elect Barack Obama, the answer is instant runoff voting, a methodology of voting whereby voters rank their choices in order of preference, and in case no candidate garners 50% or more votes; ballots are recounted, with their second choice then counting as their first choice. As Howard Dean wrote in a 2005 book:
“Had we used instant runoff voting in 2000… Nader, in the three-way tally afterward, wouldn’t have finished in one of the top two slots, Al Gore would have been the beneficiary of roughly 60 percent of his votes and would have been chosen as the next President of the United States. (Most of Pat Buchanan’s votes most likely would have gone to President Bush.)”
Members of the committee, the clock is ticking on our democracy. Despite recent rises, current voter turnout pales in comparison to turnout of the 1950’s. As the country continues to be more divided, the likelihood of close elections increases exponentially. How will XXXXXX handle these contentious situations? Not very well if XXXX is not past or XXXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXX.
In closing, if a possible alternative to simple passage of XXXX is needed, I suggest a motion be made before voting that a study of IRV be conducted.
Several states are currently considering IRV and San Francisco has now had two IRV elections with less voter error reported than in past plurality elections and overwhelming voter support in exit polls.
The national media stands poised to put the spotlight on XXXXXX, to commend the judgment of each of you for taking leadership on this issue.