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The Oregonian

Letters to The Editor
Instant Runoff Voting
Sunday, June 10, 2001

Runoff best for all voters
The editorial on instant runoff voting implies that it is a Green Party issue. That is not the case. It is an issue that is important to the 24 percent of registered voters in Oregon who are not Democrats or Republicans. In 1950, 50.36 percent of the voters were Democrats, 48.07 percent Republicans and 1.56 percent other. In 1998, 40.28 percent of the voters were Democrats, 35.84 percent Republican and 23.88 percent other. In the past 50 years, the two major parties have disenfranchised one in five voters, and the current voting system effectively shuts out their voices unless they vote for a party they have chosen not to join. In the last election there was much talk about wasting one's vote. With instant runoff voting there is no such thing as a wasted vote. It is time that Oregon gave a voice to the 24 percent of the voters not affiliated with the major parties.

-ANDY REID Southeast Portland

Let voters show preferences
Your June 4 editorial condemning instant runoff voting seemed poorly conceived and anti-free expression ("Don't dilute meaning of vote"). The editorial implies that voters do not make tradeoffs when voting for one of two or more candidates and that this would be too difficult for them using a ranking system. In fact, all votes are rankings. Rarely do voters feel 100 percent for one candidate and zero percent for other(s). Elections officials would have little trouble explaining a ranking system to voters (mark 1 for your first choice, and so on). An instant runoff system would allow people to more effectively show how they feel about candidates. When their first choice, candidate "A," gets the least number of votes, they still have shown that they prefer "B" over "C." Instant runoff voting allows freer and more complete expression of voter preference and should be quickly approved for use in major elections in Oregon.

-STEVEN BRENNER Southwest Portland

Other nations are a step ahead
While I certainly expect any thinking person to view proposed voting reforms with a critical eye, it appears that The Oregonian has completely missed the point in its June 4 editorial against instant runoff voting. I suspect that your view of instant runoff voting as a whimsical art form would surprise the voters in Australia, Ireland and London who elect their Parliament, president and mayor (respectively) with this method. Your characterization of instant runoff voting as a "double-choice election" also is misleading. Instant runoff voting is nothing more than a traditional runoff process condensed into a single election to save time and money. The true beauty of instant runoff voting lies in its ability to determine voters' ranked preferences, thus ensuring that the winner of an election will actually have majority support. Unlike many of our elections, which end as plurality victories, a winner in an election decided by instant runoff voting can truly claim to have a mandate to govern.

-DEBORAH WHITCOMB Southeast Portland

Make sure the majority matters
Your editorial opposed to instant runoffs does a disservice to voters. The purpose of instant runoff is to ensure that whoever wins is indeed the choice of the majority of voters. What's wrong with allowing the majority of voters to select a candidate they can agree on? As a lifelong Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Party of Multnomah County, I encourage election reform to increase voter participation and strengthen the voice of the voters. While the Democratic Party voted not to endorse the instant runoff, I personally support the proposal. As mentioned in your editorial, we need to eliminate punch-card ballots. We also need to increase voter education and guard against the major problems that occurred in Florida. When less than half of the eligible voters participate in elections, the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

-JIM ROBISON North Portland

Runoff voting is wise, efficient
Your June 4 editorial opposing instant runoff voting completely missed the most important and attractive feature of this idea. The only difference between instant runoff voting and the current system is that the runoff election would effectively be held at the same time as the general election, with voters being invited (but not required) to mark a second choice at the same time as their first. Just like the current runoff system, voters under instant runoff voting would have their votes counted twice. In the case of instant runoff voting, their votes would be counted both before and after the low-scoring candidates were eliminated. This would be true whether or not the voter chose more than one candidate. Instant runoff voting would completely eliminate the waste of time and money (both public and private) of requiring the top two candidates to conduct an entire second campaign and then holding a second election.

-CHRIS BILLE Southwest Portland

 
 
 
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