Palm Beach Post
Preserve voters' choice
Palm Beach Post
June 10, 2003
Read this editorial at The Palm Beach Post
Floridians have learned enough about elections supervisors to
worry about anything they are celebrating. Last week, Palm Beach
County Supervisor Theresa LePore and her colleagues hailed an
agreement in Tallahassee to cancel runoffs for another year.
The deal means less work for Ms. LePore
and the other supervisors. It also means less opportunity for voters
to make their preference known. Throughout the state's history, the
second primary has proved itself to be an important check against
fringe candidates influencing races disproportionately. The
Legislature eliminated the runoffs for the 2002 cycle, but the extra
primary could have returned in next year's presidential election. It
was up to state lawmakers.
Ms. LePore, president of the state
elections supervisors association, said her group "worked very hard"
to sell the deal that ends the runoffs. Voters would appreciate the
same amount of effort on their behalf. The complaint against the
runoffs is that there is not enough time to prepare for them during
the four weeks between the first September primary and the November
general election. Supervisors predicted chaos with the expected
heavy turnout of the 2004 presidential race. Since supervisors did
not predict chaos before the chaotic 2000 vote, lawmakers can take
the warning at least two ways.
Taxpayers have a right to feel
misled. They put up millions to buy touch-screen systems that were
billed as the state-of-the art way to run elections: easy
programming, quick counts, the solution for decades to come. When
pitching their computer buys, supervisors said nothing about
limitations that would make runoffs obsolete. Voters thought getting
rid of the punch-card ballot and doing away with hanging chads would
solve the problems. But no amount of technology can override a
system that suffers from poor management. Ms. LePore has asked Palm
Beach County commissioners to nearly double her budget and now tells
voters they should celebrate having less choice to show for it.
Legislators will have to take up the fate of the runoff again, and
they should add second-choice voting, in which voters make an
alternate selection that would come into play when no candidate got
a majority. Instant runoffs would protect voters and the electoral
process without burdening the overburdened election officials. That
change would deserve a celebration.