Krist Novoselic on Washington State IRV Bill

Instant Runoff Voting: A Serious Solution
From “The Daily World,” Grays Harbor County, Washington
Krist Novoselic's Personal Perspectives article
Thursday 02/22/01.

The last presidential election revealed fundamental flaws within our election system.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling has effectively ended the Washington State partisan blanket primary, raising further concerns about the equity of our elections.

The Republican and Democratic parties are currently suing for closed primaries. Under their plan, voters will be granted the choice of an exclusive party ballot issued after signing a declaration of party affiliation. This plan severely limits voting choices and violates the notion of a secret ballot.

The state Legislature is currently considering a number of election-reform bills. As a threat to the two major parties, some legislators are proposing the Louisiana or, "Cajun"-style non-parisan primary.

In Louisiana, voters can choose any candidate from any political party. If one candidate wins a majority of votes cast, that candidate is elected to office. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two vote-getters -- regardless of party affiliation -- move on to a runoff election. The "Cajun" election system reduces voters' choices.

We at JAMPAC -- a nonprofit artist' and musicians' political action group interested in promoting fair and responsive government -- believe the best of these options under consideration is "Instant Runoff Voting," IRV for short. Senate Bill 5338, sponsored by Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, Sen. Bill
Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, is proposing Instant Runoff Voting. It deserves our support. Sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, IRV goes beyond chads, dimples and butterfly ballots. It is fundamental change that gives voters real choices:

*IRV allows voters to rank candidates as their first choice, second choice, third, fourth, and so on. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, the election is over. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and a runoff round of counting occurs. Ballots cast for that candidate are counted for voters' next choice, until someone has a clear majority.

*IRV will eliminate the problem of spoiler candidates. It ensures majority rule by proportionally reflecting the ideological makeup of the electorate. IRV promotes positive, issue-based campaigns because candidates will seek second and third choice votes.

*IRV elects a majority candidate while still allowing voters to support a candidate who is not a front-runner.

*IRV increases voter turnout by giving voters better choices. It is proven and used internationally. Australia and Ireland have used the system for decades. In our state, voters in Vancouver passed a charter amendment in 1999 to allow them to use IRV for City Council elections.

IRV folds the primary election into the general election and is like having both the primary and general election in one day. It is a serious solution to the state's primary problem. It can help restore many people's shattered faith in democracy.

There can be no such thing as a "wasted vote" in the United States of America.

Krist Novoselic, president and founder of JAMPAC, is a 1984 Aberdeen High School graduate and former member of Nirvana.