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Friday, September 30, 2005


The New York Times had this article about the potential for a runoff in the NYC Democratic primary for mayor. A runoff election is expensive, and generally has an even lower turnout than the first election.

I've been intrigued with the notion of Intstant Runoff Voting for a couple years. Essentially, you pick your first choice, second choice, etc. The candidate with the lowest total is dropped and his/her votes are spread among the remaining candidates, based on those voters' selection of the second-most desirable candidate.

This system, which I've been told has operated in Australia for decades, would allow people to vote for so-called "fringe" candidates, if that's where their hearts were, but have a second-choice that might have a chance to win.

A simple example (and I'm going to ignore other candidate for this): Let's say there was an election among three candidates. Let's call them Bush, Gore and Nader, just for the heck of it. Let's say I really like Nader. I can actually vote for Nader! Then my second choice is...lessee, I'll pick Gore.

At the end of the day, Bush has 40%, Gore has 40%, and Nader has 20%. Nader is eliminated, but his votes are redistributed, based on the second-choice preferences of Nader voters. Let's say that 75% of Nader voters picked Bush as their second choice, and 25% picked Gore. Then Bush would get 40% +(75% of 20% or 15%)=55% Bush wins, as more people found him acceptable. (It's JUST an example.)

I urge you to to read more about IRV, especially those of you (Greg, Gordon) who are planning to run for office someday. It's taking hold all over the country.

Meanwhile, the final report of the Federal Commission on Election Reform is now available. Among other things, it suggests that electronic voting machines should leave a paper trail of ballots cast, a vital issue in my mind in Diebold-land. It also suggests that the government should provide free photo IDs to nondrivers as part of the requirement of having identification becoming a voting requirement. News organizations should "voluntarily refrain from projecting any Presidential election results" in any state until all polls have closed in 48 states, with Alaska and Hawaii excluded. All "legitimate domestic and international election observers" should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, within the rules of the election. I recall that Jimmy Carter, whose Center participated in this process, once noted that the U.S. was in a poor position to go abroad and sanction other countries' elections, given the irregular methodology of our own.

It's hardly a perfect document, but it's a start.


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