Santa Fe New Mexican
Election over; time for a better
March 8, 2002
Diana Kim and Bruce Berlin
election is over. Only 39 percent of registered voters went to the
polls and the mayoral winner received only 43 percent of their
votes. This means that our mayor for the next four years was elected
by only 17 percent of registered voters in Santa Fe. That is hardly
a mandate. And we believe that it is clearly not the way our
election process should work.
After the confusion and concerns
raised by the closeness and likely irregularities of the 2000
presidential vote, The Trinity Forum, a Santa Fe public policy
problem-solving group, chose to study the whole election process.
While the Forum reviewed many election concerns, including voter
identification, campaign financing, the registration process and
voter empowerment, we decided to address first the issue of electing
our leaders by only a minority of votes cast.
Trinity began its
examination by convening about 20 concerned citizens with a wide
variety of political viewpoints. This Trinity dialogue group
explored the voting process for eight months. They reviewed in
detail many alternative election systems, including Approval, Borda
(weighted), Cumulative, Instant Runoff and Separate Election
Runoffs. Each process was evaluated against a single list of
criteria, including fairness, voter turnout, candidate quality,
simplicity and cost.
Since space is limited only the final results
are shared here.
The Forum found runoff elections to be valuable in
motivating good candidates to run as well as empowering voters to
select their most-favored candidate.
The Forum also concluded that
instant runoff voting IRV is a better solution than holding a second
election between the two largest vote-getters because the latter is
costly, time-consuming and numbing to all.
Moreover, IRV provided
instant results and enhanced opportunities both for candidates and
voters. These advantages outweighed the difficulty in understanding
IRV's tallying process.
At present, IRV is used successfully in
electing the president of Ireland, a congress in Australia,
municipal officials in Cambridge, Mass., and as of Tuesday, city
leaders in San Francisco.
An IRV election allows the voter to rank
the candidates according to preference. The process collects all the
information in one election which is needed for a series of runoffs
to obtain a majority vote for a single candidate.
If the first vote
tally does not produce a majority winner, runoffs to determine a
winner by a majority occur by additional vote tallies. In each
additional tally, the last place finisher is eliminated and his or
her votes are transferred to the voter's next preference who is
still in the running.
This process of reallocation is continued
until one candidate receives a majority of the total votes cast.
Computers make the tallies quickly and easily.
In IRV elections,
voters can vote for the candidate who best represents their
viewpoint without concern that their vote may cause the defeat of
their second choice, who might otherwise have won with their
support. IRV assures voters that their vote will not be "wasted" on
a third-party candidate and that ultimately their vote will affect
the election outcome.
Candidates and voters would not have to
endure additional weeks of campaigning. In addition, candidates are
likely to do less negative campaigning in order to attract the
second preferences of voters who prefer someone else on their first
The bottom line is that, given the available practical
systems, IRV provides voters and candidates the most positive and
participatory environment for conducting elections. Moreover, the
community benefits by gaining leaders with a majority mandate and
our democracy is enhanced by greater citizen participation.
Trinity Forum believes that IRV elections should be considered as a
viable and desirable change to our current election process. At a
minimum, communities should be allowed to use IRV if they so choose.
In addition, the electorate should be allowed to decide whether to
use IRV for legislative and statewide offices at some point.
urge the New Mexico Legislature and its committees dealing with
elections to give serious consideration to these recommendations.
Diana Kim is executive
director and Bruce Berlin is president of The Trinity