Metro West Daily News
Rader: Support for instant run-off voting
By Ed Rader
July 23, 2002
Did Ralph Nader "spoil" it for
Gore? Could Jill Stein "spoil" it for the Democrats in
Massachusetts? Could Carla Howell "spoil" it for the Republicans?
If you're a political pragmatist, who sees no substitute for the
status quo, your answers are yes, yes and yes.
If you believe in
democracy, are willing to vote your convictions and let the chips
fall where they may, then the answer to all of these questions is a
The very notion that one candidate could spoil it
for another is as undemocratic as could be. It assumes that one
candidate has more intrinsic right to your vote than another does.
It is our voting system that caters to two parties and makes voters
fearful of voting their convictions that is spoiled. It is a system
of elections in which ever growing numbers feel coerced into holding
their nose and voting for the lesser of two evils that stinks to
But a fresh breeze of reform is rolling across the
country, from San Francisco to Vermont. From Utah to Cambridge, and
up to Alaska. It's called instant run-off voting (IRV) and it is the
wave of the future.
IRV allows for better voter choice and
encourages wider voter participation by accommodating multiple
candidates in single seat races and assuring that a "spoiler" effect
will not result in undemocratic outcomes. Instant runoff voting
allows all voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear
of helping elect their least favorite candidate, and it ensures that
the winner enjoys true support from a majority of the voters.
asks voters to rank candidates as their first choice, second choice,
third, fourth and so on. If a candidate does not receive a clear
majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoff counts are
conducted, using each voter's top choice indicated on the ballot.
To illustrate, assume in a four way race, the Republican finished
ahead with 40 percent of the vote, the Democrat second with 35
percent, a Green with 20 percent, and a Libertarian with 5 percent.
For the sake of discussion, assume all those voting for the Green
candidate as their first choice voted for the Democrat as their
second choice. and that all those voting for the Libertarian voted
Republican as their second choice. The Libertarian would be
eliminated first, and their 5 percent would go to the Republican.
Then the 20 percent of the vote going to the Green candidate would
be reassigned to the Democrat. The final result is the Democrat with
55 percent of the vote over the Republican's 45 percent. The result
is that a candidate would be elected by majority vote, and the
victory of the candidate most people liked least was avoided.
seeking of voters second choices discourages candidates from
engaging in negative campaigning, and assures a more productive,
positive election dialogue among candidates. Why throw mud on a
candidate that you know will be your constiutiencies second choice?
Why besmirch the frontrunner when you are trying to build up a
solid, supportive base for future campaigns?
IRV allows third,
fourth, and fifth parties to be heard. It opens up the electoral
process to new voices. Most important of all, it gives the more than
half of voters who stay home even for Presidential elections a
reason to vote.
Rob Richie, director of the Center for Voting and
Democracy, commented, "Even as Congress moves toward apparent
passage of bills to ban soft money in campaigns and modernize the
way we run elections, the thirst for a better democracy will
continue. In cities and states around the nation, democracy
advocates are involved in new efforts to improve our politics.
Instant runoff voting is an essential component of the future of
In San Francisco, IRV has been implemented with the
support of Democrats, Greens and Libertarians. In Utah, the
Republican Party has chosen to elect candidates using IRV. More than
50 cities and towns use it in Vermont, and 12 states have IRV bills
Isn't it time that the state where "the shot heard around
the world" joined this new democratic revolution?