A New Kind of
August 27, 2002
The example everyone uses is Jesse
The former pro wrestler was elected governor of Minnesota
in 1998 with only 37 percent of the vote.
That meant 63 percent
voted for the other two candidates. There was widespread speculation
that most of them would have voted for the other loser as a second
choice. If it's true - and assume it is for this hypothetical - that
means Ventura would never have drawn a majority. If there had been a
runoff between Ventura and second-place finisher Norm Coleman,
Coleman would have won.
With more than two candidates in an
election, you always have this chance that the winner will have only
Wouldn't it be nice to have runoff elections so you'd
have a winner to whom the majority did not object.
But runoffs are
expensive and time-consuming.
Virginia hasn't had runoffs since
1969, senior policy analyst Rosanna Bencoach of the State Board of
Elections said yesterday. State law had allowed runoffs in party
primaries - though not general elections - to ensure a winner with a
majority. But the law was changed in 1970. You can now win any
election with less.
That's why Alaska is worth watching.
called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is on the ballot there today.
IRV allows voters to rank all the candidates, just in case none
gets a majority. If your first choice finishes last, your vote would
transfer to a second choice, and so forth, until one candidate
finally has a majority.
Essentially there's a series of runoff
elections, all conducted by computer within moments of the
Some other countries already have IRV - like
Australia and Ireland - and even localities - San Francisco recently
But never a state.
But you can see where it might
As the Juneau Empire noted in a Sunday editorial supporting
IRV: "Out of the 10 gubernatorial elections Alaska has had since
statehood, only two have produced governors selected by majority."
Anyway, Instant Runoff Voting seems perfect, doesn't it?
But Bob Holsworth doesn't like it so much.
director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Public
"There's a sense that somehow these systems are fairer,"
Holsworth said yesterday. "The problem all these systems have is
that they tend to be more complicated."
Holsworth said the IRV
approach is in essence used in both runoff elections and in party
conventions, with round-by-round dropouts.
But adopting it for
elections, in essence, would change the criteria, he said.
move more in the direction of trying to suggest a
'least-objectionable' candidate," Holsworth said. "I tend to like
elections in which we vote for the person we like. I tend to think
the plurality should rule."
Even Holsworth agreed the issue's not
cut and dried, particularly for an election with many, many
candidates. "Typically, if you're always going to have multiple
candidates, you might want to have runoff elections if no one has
over, say, 20 percent," he said.
Otherwise, he said, "I'm not a fan
of it, culturally, but it certainly has a legitimate mathematical
basis [if you want to] link the actual public will to the outcome of
IRV seems worth watching, anyway.
But could it have beaten Jesse?