November 25, 2002
Rachel DiCarlo's article, Spoiling Some of the Fun,
fails to address why Libertarian candidates are able to "spoil" the
campaigns of Republican candidates. The culprit is the
first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system used in most
U.S. elections since the country's founding.
Libertarians have had no role in perpetuating the
winner-take-all system, which according to Duverger's Law creates
two strong political parties and marginalizes the rest. Indeed,
Libertarians have advocated the adoption of electoral systems
successfully implemented elsewhere, such as "preferential voting"
(a.k.a. "instant runoff voting"), that won't break down when more
than two candidates compete and would prevent the spoiler problem.
But even though they proposed and endorsed the idea, Republicans in
Alaska couldn't get together to pass an IRV measure when it came up
for a statewide vote earlier this year. Indeed, several Alaska
Republicans argued self-servingly that plurality rule was just fine
by them, especially when their candidates won.
Understandably, many Republicans and Democrats are
content with an electoral system that protects their two-party
duopoly from meaningful competition and keeps non-incumbent
political parties out of office. Republicans and Democrats have made
and maintained this Procrustean electoral bed that they now claim
tortures them. Until they put in place electoral systems that
accommodate more than two political parties, I won't be very
sympathetic to their complaints about being "spoiled."
--Rob Latham, Board Member, Californians for Electoral
I've thought about the issue of election spoilers a
lot. And yes it burns both ways to the Republicans Rachel DiCarlo
mentions, and obviously to Democrats.
Maybe we need a run-off system. In the first election,
you can vote for who you really want. It might even propel
Libertarians, Greens, and other third party candidates to 2nd place
finishes, and into the run-off. Then in the run-off election, you
simply vote for the one that you dislike the least.
Of course this approach might help Republicans, who
would probably do better in run-offs than most Democratic
candidates. This happened with the late Georgia senator Paul
Coverdell. He won his seat in the early 90s in a run-off when he
failed to get 50 percent in the general election. We'll see if this
pattern hold up in Louisiana on Dec 7.