Alternative method of voting proposed

By Bill Horne
Published October 16th 2006 in The Times-Gazette

Folks, something has to change. Voters feel disenfranchised and maybe rightfully so. Our system of representation is no longer working. Too many people feel that their vote doesn't count and that they themselves don't count, either.

We have a winner-take-all system and it is even worse than that because the winners get to redesign the voter districts. This ensures that they can retain their power. Redistricting can cause large numbers of our citizens to become disenfranchised. In other words, large groups of our population feel that they have no one to speak for them.

However, it is common knowledge that when an institution accomplishes its goals or forgets what its goals are, the people within the institution begin to fight over power. We have seen this happen within our political system before. We are seeing it now, and will probably see it again in the future.

All across our country, states, cities and local communities are trying new things in the hope of discovering something that will correct the current political process.

I have shared thoughts with you concerning clean elections. In this system, candidates agree to stay under a given spending limit and the funding for these elections and campaigns comes from the taxpayer.

Today, I want to share some information on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and a couple of other ways to vote and count votes.

IRV is a way of counting votes and it is a very different way of voting. It allows the voter to vote for several candidates and it ensures that the ultimate winner will have a majority.

For example, frequently the person winning our presidential race wins with more than 50 percent of the votes. This is because there are numerous candidates running for president. There are several small parties that put forth a candidate. Parties like the libertarian and socialist, along with many others, generally offer the voters an alternative to the two major parties.

Many voters would like to vote for a candidate from what is referred to as a "third party," but they don't want to throw away their vote. The other problem we have is that when voters do vote for a third party candidate, in large numbers, their first choice may lose and also their second choice. The voter is thus forced to vote against themselves.

I can think of several third party candidates that pulled enough votes that they may have changed the outcome of a presidential election. Pat Buchanan, George Wallace, Jesse Jackson, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Theodore Roosevelt come to mind, just to name a few.

IRV type of elections could also remove the reason for primary elections. Our primary system is rigged so that Super Tuesday eliminates all candidates from the race except for the two that were selected in the back rooms by the party bosses.

In the 2000 presidential race, Senator John McCain and Senator Bill Bradley were doing quite well until Super Tuesday. At that point, they did not have the money to compete in, what I think, was 16 some states at one time.

IRV allows voters to vote for everyone running for an office. The voter ranks them by choice. So, if seven people are running for an office, the voter would rank them 1 through 7.

If no candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped off. Let's assume that our voter had voted as her first choice the last-place candidate. Her second choice now receives her vote. This recounting continues until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.

The pluses for this type of system are: No. 1, no one would throw away their vote; No. 2, the winner would have a majority rather than just a plurality; and No. 3, it could eliminate the need for expensive primaries that are expensive to both the candidates and the taxpayers.

Other possible benefits are that maybe the voters could select better candidates than the people in the smoke-filled back rooms. Maybe more than one half of the eligible voters would vote. Maybe voters, once again, would feel like their vote counted.

Some states are experimenting with IRV now; but in just certain areas. One state is trying IRV in a few judicial races, one is looking at just some county races and a couple of states are trying this system in some city council elections.

If you are interested in following these elections, the states experimenting are North Carolina, Washington, California and Minnesota.

Folks, our country is supposed to be the shining example of democracy. But more and more people are feeling like they are left out and that they don't count and neither does their vote. We are lucky if one half of our voters go to the polls on Election Day. This is a really sad situation.

There are some other methods of voting but I am out of space. I will cover them in a later column. If you want to look them up yourself, they are the Condorcet System, the Borda Count, Approval Voting, and Cumulative Voting.

All of these voting systems have their good points but I think that the Instant Runoff Voting is the most promising. This is particularly true if we use it in conjunction with an easier method for citizens to place their names on the ballot. And, if we take the big money special interests - who buy our government - out of the process.