Just because majority of
voters hate you, it doesn't mean you can't win
By Burt Constable
March 14, 2002
Democrats could go to the polls Tuesday and elect a governor
candidate the overwhelming majority of party members didn't support.
The GOP could hand the nomination to a gubernatorial candidate most
Republicans shunned. Consider these possible scenarios:
Buoyed by a
turnout of abortion rights advocates, Corinne Wood takes 34 percent
of Tuesday's Republican primary vote to upset Jim Ryan and Pat
O'Malley, who each capture 33 percent of the vote. This would mean
the abortion rights candidate wins even though two out of every
three Republicans cast votes against her.
Meanwhile, Paul Vallas
captures 34 percent of the Democratic vote to win the nomination
even though 66 percent of his party preferred Rod Blagojevich or
The bottom line would be that we enter the general
election with two candidates who couldn't even win support from 40
percent of their own party members, many of whom actually donated
money that was used for TV commercials blasting the eventual
And we wonder why voter turnout is low.
"I don't think
that strengthens our democracy," says John Anderson, the popular
10-term Illinois congressman who left the Republican Party to wage
an invigorating third-party campaign for the White House in 1980 as
an independent candidate against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
"People aren't turning out. People aren't voting. And we need to
For the last decade, Anderson has been a leader in an
election reform movement that promises to curb attack ads, increase
voter turnout and ensure that the winning candidates actually garner
more than 50 percent of the vote. Called Instant Runoff Voting, the
process won approval from voters in San Francisco and Vermont
earlier this month.
"We are tremendously heartened by those
victories," says Anderson, who just celebrated his 80th birthday
with a party in his hometown of Rockford. A bill before the Illinois
Senate, sponsored by Chicago Democrat Barack Obama, would establish
instant runoff for primary elections in Illinois and permit cities
to use it to decide mayoral contests.
"I think it would be a
tremendous boost and encourage a lot of people who think voting is a
waste of time," Anderson says. "It would broaden the debate, bring
ideas ... and increase the vitality and strength of our democracy."
Under Instant Runoff Voting, voters rank the candidates. If no
candidate wins the majority of the votes, the candidate who finishes
last would be eliminated and the second-place votes on those ballots
would be counted. This continues until one candidate captures more
than 50 percent of the vote.
In 1992, Americans who voted for Ross
Perot essentially "wasted" their votes on a third-place candidate.
Had the instant runoff system been in place in 1992, the nearly 20
million Americans who voted for Perot would have seen their second
choices counted. Without instant runoff, Bill Clinton won the
election with 43 percent of the vote.
In 2000, supporters of
third-party candidate Ralph Nader faced the same dilemma, and George
W. Bush won with less than 48 percent of the vote.
Runoff Voting, the 93,000 Florida residents who voted for Nader, of
which I was one, would not have had to wait 36 days for a Supreme
Court decision to tell us who won," quips Anderson, who teaches
classes in the electoral process and constitutional law at Nova
Southeastern University Law School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
is the time to ask for Instant Runoff Voting," notes Rob Richie,
executive director of The Center for Voting & Democracy, a
nonpartisan, not-for-profit agency that advocates election reform.
As states update and reform the election machinery, the idea of
touch- screen computer voting, which reduces errors and makes
Instant Runoff Voting ridiculously easy, is gaining momentum. For
more information on Instant Runoff Voting, check out the Web site
"The idea is totally sound. It really makes a
reality out of the notion a candidate should be elected by a
majority," says Anderson, who captured 6.6 percent of the vote in
1980 but clearly lost votes from supporters who didn't want to
"waste" their vote.
"I don't think I would have affected the
outcome really," Anderson says when asked how he would have fared
with Instant Runoff Voting. "But it would have given some people the
satisfaction of voting for the candidate they thought was best for