Voting system expert backs
By Katy Hall
March 14, 2002
majority rule is to have any meaning in our country, we need to step
back and make sure the majority is not being denied simply because
of an outdated electoral system," said Robert Richie, an expert on
Richie, who is executive director of the Center for
Voting and Democracy, criticized the existing presidential election
procedures in the United States and proposed an "instant runoff"
system yesterday afternoon in Princeton University's Robertson Hall.
Richie, whose organization seeks improved voter turnout and fair
representation, said the current winner-take-all electoral system
allows a candidate without a majority to win and can leave most of
the voters feeling voiceless.
"Over half the states in the past
three presidential elections were won with less than 50 percent of
the popular vote," he said. "It's high time we take a look at these
Richie said the center advocates a so-called "instant
runoff" to help correct the problems. Under an instant runoff, the
voters rank their choices instead of choosing just one candidate.
If someone has a majority on the first count, he or she wins. If
not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated.
On a recount, that candidate's votes are redistributed according to
the voters' second choice. The procedure continues until someone
gets a majority.
According to Richie, that would ensure the
election of a candidate with a majority of votes and would give
minorities more influence.
"The current system does not represent
diversity, especially as that diversity becomes more complex and
diffused over larger geographical areas," he said.
Richie said an
instant runoff policy would also save money because it would
eliminate the need for runoff elections and would stop "spoiler"
candidates from distorting results by taking votes away from a
candidate who would have otherwise received a majority.
changing the U.S. electoral system is no easy or quick process,
Richie said, the debate over shifting to an instant runoff system
"is a more serious one over the next five to 10 years than most
Richie has been executive director of the Center for
Voting and Democracy since it was formed in 1992.