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Kansas City Star

New voting system allows instant runoff

By Lou Traxel
May 3, 2001
 In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election fiasco, prominent
 politicians everywhere trumpeted their latest scheme for restoring
 democracy to this country.

 While most of these suggestions are a step in the right direction,
 they fail to address the fundamental problem with our nation's voting
 system -- that it does not ensure majority rule.

 Under our present voting system, the winner is determined as much by
 the arbitrary political distribution of candidates as it
 is by the popularity of the candidate with the most votes.

 Candidates who represent a majority viewpoint will often split the
 vote, allowing someone representing a minority viewpoint to win.

 Fortunately, a voting method does eliminate these problems.

 Instant runoff voting permits voters to rank the candidates in order
 of preference. The votes are initially tabulated by counting only the
 voter's first choices. If one candidate receives a majority, then he
 or she is declared the winner. If no one receives a majority, the
 candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and votes cast for that
 candidate are transferred to the voters' second choice. The process
 is repeated until one candidate emerges with a majority.

 Under this instant system, qualified individuals would no longer be
 afraid to run for office for fear of hurting the chances of other
 candidates, resulting in a more open debate where issues affecting
 average people could no longer be ignored by the major parties.

 Minor-party candidates would find it easier to qualify for public
 campaign funding, thus reducing the power of private cash to
 influence politics. Parties would need to form coalitions to reach a
 majority level of support, and negative campaigning would be reduced.

 Piecemeal reforms are not what our archaic electoral system needs.
 Voters should not be punished with a government that does not
 represent their will simply because of individuals exercising their
 right to run for public office.

 The voters have been punished enough. Instant runoff voting is an
 idea whose time has come.

 Lou Traxel is an employee of Black & Veatch and a resident of Lee's Summit. He is a member of the Greens of Greater Kansas City and the Midwest Democracy Center.


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