Instant runoff voting could lead to less negativity in political campaigns

By Saundra Sovick
Published March 16th 2006 in The ASU Herald
Instant-runoff voting, Three words that may mean little to most college students.

As our voting system currently stands, we elect candidates who receive the most votes. When you and I walk into the polls to vote, we can only select one person.

Hypothetically, I do my homework and learn about the candidates before I go to vote. I know there are four candidates. I happen to like the platform of candidate “Jack”. Candidate “Mary” stands for some things I value. I am totally opposed to the platform of candidate “Bob” and am indifferent to candidate “Sue”.

In reading the newspaper, I see that the polls indicate candidates “Bob” and “Mary” are drastically leading the other two, but neither has a clear lead over the other.

I now ask myself this: should I not vote for candidate “Jack”--with whom I agree most-and vote for candidate “Mary” instead? I reason that I would rather see candidate “Mary” elected than candidate “Bob”. It appears that candidate “Mary” does need every vote possible in order to win. I am torn. In the end I vote for candidate “Mary.”

Looking at the previous hypothetical illustration, something seems wrong. People should choose a candidate to vote for because they believe in what the candidate stands for. They shouldn’t be relegated to choosing a candidate to vote for simply because they would rather that candidate win than someone else.

With instant-runoff voting this could be different. Voters could be allowed to rank their choice in candidates when they vote.

When the votes are counted after the election, all of the first choices are counted. If a candidate fails to win enough votes at this point, then the ballots voting for that candidate are re-examined.

The second choice candidates on those ballots are then counted and added to the three remaining candidates’ previous totals. If needed, the candidate, of the remaining three, with the fewest number of votes has their ballots re-examined and the next choices of those ballots are added to the two remaining candidates. In cases where there are more than four candidates on a ballot, this can continue for several rounds until one candidate reaches the required percentage of the votes.

In my earlier illustration, I could have chosen candidate “Jack” as my first choice. Then I could have chosen candidate “Mary” as my second choice and candidate “Sue” as my third choice and left my fourth choice blank.

With this style of voting, I could vote for the candidate who I truly wanted to see in office with out any worries about not voting for candidate “Mary” just to keep candidate “Bob” from winning.

This system can lead to less negativity in political campaigns. Candidates are trying to seek your first choice vote, but if that doesn’t work, then at least your second choice vote. We need to start making our voices heard by letting people who we have already elected know that the system needs to change from one of mediocrity to one where people can be proud of their vote.

As young voters, we hold within our grasp, the power to reshape the fundamental way in which we elect our representatives for the rest of our lives. We shouldn’t have to simply muddle through each election voting for the least of two evils. We should be able to stand proud knowing we voted for the candidate who best represents our goals, ideals and values.


Legislation and Litigation

  • HB 1770 Provides instant runoff voting for active duty military personnel stationed overseas.  Passed the house and is currently under review in the senate.