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Better Voting System
October 28, 2002

On Oct. 20, we saw the full complement of gubernatorial candidates debate in Syracuse. ["The Minute Melee: Pataki, Opponents Square Off," News, Oct. 21].

Whatever his true motive, Gov. George Pataki rightly stood up for the right of the third-party candidates to participate in the debates. But what is the role of these third-party candidates? More to the point, will it happen again? Will a third party candidate play the spoiler? Will Tom Golisano be the Ralph Nader of New York? Or will voters shy away from voting for the candidate they truly support because they feel like they will be wasting their vote?

It doesn't have to be this way. A method of election known as instant runoff voting solves this problem. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate does not receive a majority of votes, the candidate who received the fewest first choice ballots is eliminated.

Voters who chose the now-eliminated candidate as their top choice then have their vote counted for their second choice candidate - just as if they were voting in a traditional two-round runoff election - while the votes of all other voters continue supporting their top choice candidate. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes cast.

Instant runoff voting eliminates the problem of spoiler candidates and allows voters to express their true preference at the polls. Third parties have an important role in the democratic system. Unfortunately, our current procedures all too often squelch their voices and suppress their vote.

David Berger
Valley Stream

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Copyright 2002 The Center for Voting and Democracy
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