"Instant runoff' would save money

By Deborah Richie
Published September 20th 2005 in Misoulian
After voting in the primary election this September, I found myself wishing I could vote once this fall and eliminate the long and expensive campaign season. In fact, we could eliminate the primary by electing majority winners in a single-round "instant runoff." San Francisco uses this system now and has sharply cut the costs of running for office by holding one instead of two elections. Taxpayers there will save $20 million over the coming decade.

 Suppose we were using an instant runoff this year. Instead of having two elections, we'd elect a majority winner in one election in November, when more people vote. With six mayoral candidates, voters would indicate their favorite choice, but also have the option to indicate their runoff choices by ranking the candidates in order: first choice, second choice and so on.

 To determine the winner, we would add up the first choices. If a candidate had a majority of at least 50 percent, plus one, we'd have a winner. If not, the top candidates would advance to a second runoff round of counting. If your first choice is one of those candidates, your ballot again would count for that candidate. If your first choice didn't earn enough votes to advance, your ballot would count for your next choice candidate in the runoff.

For voters, this is as easy as one, two, three. Ballot counting is easy as well with modern voting equipment that counts votes rapidly and efficiently. Take a look at www.fairvote.org for a wealth of information on instant runoff voting and its impressive success record.