Los Angeles Daily News
Runoff vote can be done
By Dan Johnson-Weinberger and Evelyn
December 20, 2001
There's one thing about which
supporters of both City Council candidates Tony Cardenas and Wendy
Greuel can agree: We all wish the election were over.
several months and almost $1 million spent on campaign mailers and
phone banks for the December 11th election, the two major candidates
now find themselves in a March runoff because a third candidate,
James Cordaro, played the role of spoiler, preventing either
Cardenas or Greuel from winning more than 50 percent of the vote.
By the time the eventual winner is seated next March, the residents
of the Second district will have been unrepresented in City Hall for
more than six months.
And Los Angeles taxpayers must watch as
another $600,000 of our tax money is poured into the runoff campaign
coffers of the runoff candidates under the guise of public matching
How can we fix this system, which is designed to waste our
time and money?
The answer is instant runoff voting. Instant runoff
voting allows voters to rank their choices in elections with more
than two candidates, instead of picking just one.
first-choice candidate doesn't make it to the runoff, which of the
other candidates is your second choice?
If a candidate gets more
than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, they win, just as they do
now. If, however, no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the
first-choice votes, an instant runoff is held. Whoever came in last
(Cordaro, in this case) is eliminated. The Cordaro votes are then
redistributed to the second choices on those ballots (either Greuel
or Cardenas), just like the runoff election that will be held in
March. After the votes are re-tabulated, whichever candidate earns
more than 50 percent of the votes wins the seat.
Since the whole
runoff election in last week's City Council election comes down to
the second-choice votes of Cordaro supporters, why wait three months
to find out which of the two candidates they prefer?
voting is used to elect the mayor of London, and the president of
Ireland, and has been authorized for use in Oakland and Santa Clara
County. It will appear on the March ballot in San Francisco to elect
the mayor, city attorney and the Board of Supervisors.
instant runoff voting better than the delayed runoff system we use
Instant runoff voting saves time. The delayed runoff system
causes vacant council seats to stay empty for an average of six
months. There's no need to wait three extra months for the runoff
election when we can get the job done in one election.
runoff voting saves money. The administrative cost of running a
special election in a council district runs in the hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
Additionally, the City's public matching
funds policy hands hundreds of thousands more of your tax dollars to
the two runoff candidates in every City election when those
candidates choose to participate in the matching funds program.
Instant runoff voting could save us more than $1 million every
Instant runoff voting eliminates the "spoiler" problem.
Spoiler candidates or "split votes" would no longer threaten major
candidates. Voters can vote their conscience, giving their first
choice vote to a candidate they think may not win or make it to the
runoff without fear of wasting their vote.
Instant runoff voting
promotes positive campaigns. Candidates will need to convince voters
to give them their first or second-choice votes. Attack ads and
negative campaigning will not entice voters to give a mudslinging
candidate their second choice vote
Instant runoff voting boosts
voter turnout. Runoff elections can have dreadfully low turnout.
Like the rest of the nation, Californians were aghast at the voting
debacle in Florida last fall, but our own electoral system is as
inefficient as those infamous Florida chads.
It's time for some
common-sense changes in our electoral system, with an eye towards
rebuilding the public trust in our democracy.
Instant runoff voting
is one forward-looking reform that Californians should embrace --
especially for special elections.
Dan Johnson-Weinberger is
national field director of the Center for Voting and Democracy.
Evelyn Jerome is co-chair of the California Instant Runoff Voting