Instant Runoff Voting Would Spur Debate, Give Everyone A Voice

By Jim Sinex
Published February 20th 2006 in The Arizona Daily Star
The Arizona Daily Star
Published: 02.20.2006

Instant-runoff voting would spur debate, give everyone a voice
Tucson's government clearly does not represent the citizens of Tucson. That's clear if you look at the election statistics for mayor and council in the past.
That's not to say the elected officials working for us are not diligent and hard-working public servants.
In fact, a look at their paychecks would prove they're certainly not out for the money.
The problem is that Tucson voters will show up to vote for president or governor, but we just can't be bothered to vote in city elections.
In the last election, 22 percent showed up to change out a de facto Republican council and install a new Democratic council.
It is said that all politics is local, but in Tucson we can't be bothered with politics so close to home.
Tucson, as a democracy, has been in trouble for a long time. We have been missing a full accounting of our population.
That's why we need an instant- runoff or ranked voting system.
Under such a system, voters would go to the polls in November to cast their vote for mayor and council by indicating both their first and alternate choices.
That would eliminate a costly city-run primary, when even fewer voters will show, and it puts all valid candidates on a single ballot for consideration at one time.
Because voters indicate their ranked choice, there is no chance for a spoiler, and Tucson could better express its true preferences.
As an example, if there were five candidates with no clear majority winner, the candidate with the lowest number of votes would be dropped and that candidate's voters' second choice would be added to the tally.
This process would repeat until one candidate receives a 50 percent-plus-one majority.
This system is good for showing voter preference, which transfers to a candidate who takes office with a better understanding of where those votes came from.
It allows alternate candidates from smaller parties and independents a voice without fear of spoiling the ultimate outcome.
That means more voices in the debate and with them more voters and votes.
Tucson needs all its voices as we try to build a better city that is clearly a different and a better place to live.
By improving the election process, we can improve the debate. That could put the ideas within our democracy above the marketing of current political campaigns.
Independents, Greens, Libertarians and any other group of people should have a voice in our democracy.
We need them. Instant-runoff voting could be a great beginning to a much better debate about our future — one that belongs to our children much more than it belongs to us.
Jim Sinex is with FairElect.org, which supports ward elections in Tucson. Contact him [email protected]