Instant runoff voting deserves a closer look
Published July 5th 2007 in Kalamazoo Gazette
Completely sick of Democrats?

Republicans don't do anything for you, either?

For some voters, that doesn't leave many other choices.

However, the Michigan Third Parties Coalition -- a group that includes the Green, Reform, Libertarian, Socialist and U.S. Taxpayers parties -- would like to make it easier for minor-party candidates to get on the ballot in Michigan.

The coalition is endorsing a method of balloting that could make it more likely voters would choose a third-party candidate.

The group is backing a move to instant runoff voting, in which voters would rank, in order of choice, candidates from each of the parties on the ballot. If no candidates receives a majority of No. 1 votes, the lowest-ranked candidate is removed from consideration and the race is re-tallied for the remaining candidates, until one has the majority of No. 1 rankings.

Instant runoff voting, say its proponents, would eliminate plurality elections, in which the winner is elected with less than 50 percent of the vote. They say it would eliminate the need for run-off elections.

And it would make it more likely that voters would rank third-party candidates higher-- because it would eliminate the possibility that a third-party candidate would become nothing more than a spoiler for a major-party candidate.

Only a couple of countries -- Ireland and Australia -- use instant runoff voting. And only a few communities in the United States -- including Ferndale, Mich.; Burlington, Vt.; and Berkeley, Calif. -- have authorized use of the process in local elections.

The strengths and weaknesses of instant runoff voting are worth exploring.

Anything that would increase participation of both candidates and voters should be given serious consideration.