San Francisco Bay Guardian
S.F., crucible for
By Krist Novoselic
August 13, 2003
BECAME interested in electoral reform with my work on music issues
in Washington state. One of the goals of that work was to mobilize a
constituency. And through all of my efforts I've found that the
problem with people not participating in our democracy comes down to
one thing: our electoral system discourages people.
last presidential election, when some people told voters not to
throw away their votes on Ralph Nader and to vote for Al Gore? I
believe this kind of rationale is nothing less than admitting that
the voting booth is a garbage can. And who is to presume whose votes
belong to whom?
The fact is that too many people don't have
representation. Are you a Republican in a Democrat district? Are you
a Democrat in a Republican district? Let's not forget Independent,
Green, Libertarian, or other political stripes shut out by design.
I started to research political reforms and came across the Center
for Voting and Democracy. With that group's valuable information, I
recognized the potential of preference voting and full
I come from a music background. This has helped me
see the huge potential for a meaningful electoral reform in our
nation. Popular music goes through trends that operate in a cycle.
Once music becomes predictable and a formula to sustain the
establishment, people become cynical, stop buying music, and tune
out. This sad state of affairs opens the gates for the new wave of
bands. The new sounds draw people back in, thus restoring vitality.
We can make this same analogy in regards to our democracy.
Elections have become so predictable that the majority of people
don't even bother to vote (only 38 percent did in the 2002
The political establishment knows how to game the
formula or our exclusive elections to sustain themselves. As a
consequence, people become cynical, stop voting, and tune out.
can blame ourselves for not recognizing the signs of our broken
democracy, or we can work to fix it. We can sit back and watch our
democracy linger, stuck in its current state of stagnation, or we
can rise up to the challenge of building a true democracy - an
The time has come, I believe, for the new wave
in American politics. The time has come for an inclusive democracy.
The only way we're going to do this is through meaningful electoral
reforms like instant-runoff (or ranked-choice) voting and full
Our current political culture is stagnant, and the
proof is in the turnout numbers. IRV is smart, proven, and holds the
promise of inclusion. What is the value of a democracy without
inclusion? IRV's promise of inclusion will restore vitality to our
That's why we need to make IRV happen in San
Francisco. S.F. is the beachhead for meaningful electoral reform in
the United States. I know that the establishment is watching this
city. And we know they want to see IRV fail. This is too important
to let slip away. S.F. has come too far. You've got the weight of
the majority of this great city's voters. Remember, majority rule,
like inclusion, is the foundation of the very idea of democracy.
Krist Novoselic is the former
bass player for Nirvana and a Washington state political activist.
This op-ed is adapted from remarks he made to a Center for Voting
and Democracy fundraiser July 31