Spoilers are so passť
Published May 27th 2004 in Miami New Times
Let the runoff decide: While Brett Sokol's column "The 3% Man" ("Kulchur," April 29) plays on the controversy of third-party and independent-candidate participation in presidential politics, he fails to mention the proverbial elephant in the room. The "blame Greens for splitting the vote and spoiling the election" circus is an utter distraction. The real spoiler is our election process. Its features include unusually high qualification thresholds, bans from public debate, and a plurality voting system.

In our current system, three or more candidates competing for a single seat can result in the winner having less than a majority, and the majority of the electorate actually opposing the "winner." This "minority rule" system ascribes "spoiler" status to any candidate or party that would take votes from either of the two major-party contenders, thereby splitting the vote. This forces many of us to vote strategically for a "lesser evil," or for whom we deem "electable," rather than for our preferred candidate.

Fortunately a solution is within our reach. It's called instant runoff voting, or IRV (see www.fairvote.org). IRV is a much more optimal alternative. It's a ranked choice system that is gaining momentum around the country. Simply rank your preferences first, second, third, etc. The winner must receive a majority. Count all the first choices. If one candidate receives a majority, the election is over. If no candidate receives a majority, the low vote-getter is eliminated, and the ballots are retabulated. If your favorite candidate has not been eliminated, he or she is counted in the retabulation. If your favorite has been eliminated, your second choice is counted in the retabulation. The process continues until one candidate accrues a majority.

It's done in just one visit to the polls. The real support behind independent and third-party candidates can be seen because people are no longer fearful of voting for them, since there is no risk involved. The spoiler effect has been eliminated.

Preparations for an IRV ballot initiative are in the works here by a political action committee, Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting in Florida (see www.cirv.org). It's high time we have no more excuses why third parties can't play. A broader public discourse is desperately needed in American politics. Let's restore majority rule, create more political choice, and eliminate divisive "spoiler" politics, all at the same time. Bring on IRV!

Steve Showen