Among the legacies left after the 2000 presidential election is
an acute awareness something is wrong with the way elections are
held in the United States. Not only are people angry about the
choices they are given on the ballot, they are increasingly
frustrated by a system which forces them to select the lesser of two
One of the reforms being considered in Berkeley is instant runoff
voting, also know as preferential voting, which allows voters to
rank candidates in order of preference. It offers several advantages
over conventional winner-take-all voting.
Since voters would be able to rank candidates, it would allow
third-party and small-party candidates a more viable chance of being
elected to office.
Additionally, for cities and counties struggling with finances,
preferential voting is a means to save money. Currently when an
election fails to render a single candidate with a majority of the
vote, another election has to be held. But preferential voting would
do away with the extra costs by getting voters’ preferences in a
runoff up front. All that would be required is a retabulation of the
ballots and the results would be known the same night. This would be
better than paying for another election and waiting weeks or months
to know who won.
Eliminating runoff elections would also mean candidates would not
be forced to scramble for money to sustain their campaigns for a
When the results of the instant runoff are decided, voters can be
assured that the eventual winners won by a majority of the votes
cast, thereby adding a greater degree of certainty that the winner
reflects the will of the voters.
But far and away the best feature of preferential voting is that
people to feel that their vote