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Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Galling Garst / Sham campaign is really stinky
Editorial
July 19, 2002

[Key Excerpt]

...What the problem cries out for is Minnesota's adoption of an instant-runoff-election procedure. That way, voters from the Green Party or

Independence Party or Socialist Workers Party can vote their conscience without fear of tipping the election to the candidate most opposite their views.

Here's how it works: A voter casts a ballot that ranks candidates by order of preference. So a Green voter might signal that her first preference is the Green candidate, second preference the DFL candidate, third preference the Republican candidate. If no candidate has an absolute majority, votes for the trailing candidates are reassigned to those voters' second choices. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes cast.

The third-party phenomenon -- energized especially by the election of Gov. Jesse Ventura -- has moved Minnesota into uncharted political waters. It will take some time to make necessary adjustments. Instant runoff voting is one of the most important of those changes. Another is tightening the rules to prevent stinky campaign schemes such as Garst's. Democracy needs that sort of behavior about as much as it needs a king.

[Full Text]

If Sam Garst doesn't like GOP congressional candidate John Kline's views, there are a lot of things that Garst can do. One that he is allowed to do but shouldn't is run a sham campaign designed to pull votes away from Kline. Garst believes in politics, passionately, so he should understand more than most that all his candidacy under the flim-flam "No New Taxes Party" will do is further stimulate the sort of public cynicism toward politics and politicians of which there is already an excess.

Kline is the Republican candidate in the Second Congressional District contest, where he is pitted against incumbent Rep. Bill Luther, a DFLer. The two have met before, and the results were very close. With a Green Party candidate also in the race this time, there is a legitimate DFL fear that Luther might lose. So Garst, a strong Luther supporter, filed as a candidate under the banner of his very own antitax party -- though Garst is anything but antitax. In fact, he's pretty darned mad about President Bush's tax cuts enacted last year. He argues, legitimately, that they favor the wealthy. But Garst knows that when some pay-no-attention voters see "No New Taxes Party" beside his name, they'll vote for him, thus increasing Luther's chances of winning.

Garst isn't the first person to try this scheme or variations on it. In two Minnesota legislative districts this year, Republican activists have filed in the primaries of opposing parties, hoping to knock off incumbents before the general election.

This sort of thing is becoming more common because of the emergence of third parties. Just as Democrats worried in 2000 that votes for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader would throw the election to George W. Bush, DFLers have reason to worry about Luther's future. But scummy schemes like that Garst has embarked on are not the answer -- as the Luther campaign should have recognized, instead of encouraging Garst.

What the problem cries out for is Minnesota's adoption of an instant-runoff-election procedure. That way, voters from the Green Party or

Independence Party or Socialist Workers Party can vote their conscience without fear of tipping the election to the candidate most opposite their views.

Here's how it works: A voter casts a ballot that ranks candidates by order of preference. So a Green voter might signal that her first preference is the Green candidate, second preference the DFL candidate, third preference the Republican candidate. If no candidate has an absolute majority, votes for the trailing candidates are reassigned to those voters' second choices. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes cast.

The third-party phenomenon -- energized especially by the election of Gov. Jesse Ventura -- has moved Minnesota into uncharted political waters. It will take some time to make necessary adjustments. Instant runoff voting is one of the most important of those changes. Another is tightening the rules to prevent stinky campaign schemes such as Garst's. Democracy needs that sort of behavior about as much as it needs a king.


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