Michigan could end 'spoiled' elections with instant runoff voting
By Douglas Campbell
Published November 14th 2006 in The Detroit News
'Tis November. Leaves are falling, Lucy snatched the football away from Charlie Brown, and Democrats are whining that the Green Party spoiled an election.
In the election for the Michigan Senate, Republican John Pappageorge, Democrat Andy Levin and Green Kyle McBee each received a minority of the vote in District 13, which covers part of Oakland County. Pappageorge received a plurality -- more votes than anybody else -- and will be the district's senator. Democrats say that because Levin and McBee, combined, received more votes than Pappageorge, Levin should get the Senate seat.
I understand their disappointment, after spending close to a $1 million campaigning for this one Senate seat, including $364,600 of soft money from the Senate Democratic Fund, a similar amount from political action committees and much of the remainder from lawyers and chief executives (for a job that pays $79,650 a year).
Minority votes don't win
Correct me if I'm clueless here: Which part of receiving a minority of the vote entitles you to expect to win? Some are howling that the election was "spoiled" because "the left" was divided between Democrats and Greens, and "the right" won the Senate seat.
I don't see it as spoiled so much as the inevitable outcome of our first-past-the-post style of elections. Somebody wins, everybody else loses. If you earn a minority of the vote, you should expect to lose.
Our system doesn't allocate 3 percent of the seats in Congress to parties that receive 3 percent of the vote, or there would be three Green senators and 13 Green representatives in Washington, D.C.
McBee accepted no soft money, corporate contributions or PAC money. It's the Green Party way - we have unilaterally implemented campaign finance reform and remain 100-percent lobbyist-free. Almost everyone wants to see obscene sums of money out of political campaigning and we have formed a new political party that does precisely that.
But because McBee spent less than 1 percent of what Levin did advertising in media outlets, he encountered a near-perfect news blackout from those media outlets.
Green's campaign reforms
Yes, the Green Party has a plan for campaign finance reform. We may be best known for protecting and restoring the natural environment, but becoming active in politics is necessary to achieve that. Wangari Maathai, recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, probably says it best:
"It is very, very important for the world to recognize the linkage between good management of the environment, sustainable and efficient management of our environment and resources, and equitable distribution of these resources on one side, and democratic space and peace. If we are going to manage our resources sustainability, efficiently, if we are going to share them equitably, we need democratic space. It is impossible to manage resources responsibly and sustainably in a dictatorship, because in such a situation you have a few people controlling the resources at the expense of the many, and therefore, you cannot have peace. Sooner or later, you have conflict."
Try new voting system
The United States may not be a dictatorship, but we do have a few people controlling the resources at the expense of the many.
We have a plan for eliminating spoiled elections, too: Instant Runoff Voting, which we've been promoting since day one. Under this system, you mark both your first and second choices. It makes it unnecessary to choose the lesser of two weasels, enables you to mark both your true preference and your fallback choice, mathematically eliminates the possibility of spoiled elections, eliminates the need for primary elections and assures no candidate is elected without a majority.
We just haven't found anybody in the Legislature who's interested in preventing spoiled elections.
The Green party is not going away, and we're not giving up. We're trying to bring true democracy to America, not just a pendulum swinging between Democrats and Republicans. A nation accustomed to 31 flavors of ice cream needs much more than just two bipolar political parties.
Ideally, we'd have at least five strong political parties, no two of which can form a majority. But just having one or two strong minor parties, which could prevent one traditional party or the other from gaining and abusing a majority, would be a great start.