San Francisco Examiner
Instant runoffs for the
November 25, 2002
As the initial results of the election rolled in, I
was worried that once again the Greens would be blamed for spoiling
the Democratic governor's race.
The Democratic Party needs to look
at future elections and decide whether it is willing to risk losing
an election by not reforming our election laws. Clearly, in a closer
race, where the Republicans had a more formidable candidate, the 5.3
percent of the vote Peter Camejo garnered could have spelled the
difference between winning and losing.
I could not find a Green
Party candidate anywhere in the country that was not promoting
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).
It seems like political consultants
and campaign managers are attempting to keep voter turnout as low as
possible. Could it be they feel it's easier to poll and manipulate a
smaller demographic of people? Could it be they want to dumb down
the debate to make it less likely their candidate will slip up?
After the 2000 presidential disaster in Florida, one would think
that the Democratic Party would be working feverishly to get IRV
across the country to prevent such an event from ever happening
again and to affirm that the winner of an election has a majority
support of the people.
IRV accomplishes this. It allows voters to
rank their ballot with their first, second, third, etc. choice. If
no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote after the
first-choice votes are tabulated, the candidate with the least votes
is eliminated and all those second-choices are retabulated into the
remaining candidates. The process is repeated until someone gets
over 50 percent of the vote, guaranteeing a majority, rather than a
plurality winner and, most importantly, eliminating the spoiler
Voting is a citizen's most powerful form of speech and if
we are forced to decide whether to vote for the lesser of two evils
or our conscience, our free speech is put under duress. Anyone, left
or right, should be allowed to vote their conscience without fear of
electing their least-favorite candidate.
Clearly we are in a crisis
in America. Far less than half the eligible voters are turning out
to cast a ballot. The current system is bankrupt. The people are
given less appealing candidates every round of elections.
people a wider choice, by allowing them to vote for someone who
thinks like they do, or looks like them or is the same gender,
perhaps we will get more minorities and women to the polls. Perhaps
it will eventually lead our leaders to become more accountable.
Finally, it will be good for the Democratic Party because the
likely outcome of a high voter turnout is that more Democrats will
get elected. Who cares if they win with 5 percent or 10 percent of
the second choice votes? They still win and so do the third-party
candidates and voters who get to express themselves. Who knows,
maybe we will eventually get back to the days when we had almost 70
Our voting system in America has not changed since
our country began more than 200 years ago. It is time to bring 21st
century ideas and technology to the voting booth.
We need to wrest
control of our government back from highly manipulative PR firms and
nefarious campaign hucksters. IRV will be a giant stride in that
I urge anyone who cares about the future of the
Democratic Party, the right of third party candidates to evenly
participate in the electoral process and/or our First Amendment
right to free speech, to write their legislators immediately, while
the results of this month's election are still fresh in our minds,
and urge them to pass legislation which will liberate and empower
voters to vote their conscience and rank their ballots according to
their preference of candidate.