Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Good Idea... 

Burlington, Vermont, is trying a unique idea with their current mayoral election, and it's one that makes a lot of sense. Dubbed the "instant runoff", it's a concept that I've seen endorsed by science wonks. (Note: I love science wonks). The short version: instead of just voting for one candidate, each voter picks the candidates in order of preference.

For example, say there are five candidates on the ballot. Instead of voting for one, you rank them in order, from one to five. The ballots are counted and, if someone has more than 50% of the vote, they win. If not, then the last-place candidate is dumped, and then the top four votes are counted to see if any of them has fifty percent, and so on, until a winner is declared. (I'm assuming that you don't have to cast any votes for candidates you absolutely don't want to win.)

As the article explains, this kind of thing could be a boon to third parties for a simple reason: voters wouldn't fear that they're throwing away their vote by picking a candidate who isn't a D or an R. Those Nader supporters in Florida could have voted Nader 1, Gore 2 so that, when Nader was eliminated from the running, the votes would have gone to Gore. Or, conversely, in a Red State full of people not happy with their current Republican but not wanting a Democrat, they could vote Joe Blow (Constitution Party) 1, John Doe (Republican Party ) 2, with the same outcome.

We need to get rid of the binary, either/or function of elections, because it shouldn't be a popularity contest. Using the "instant runoff" method could ensure that the most popular candidate among all voters is flushed out in the final tally. It would certainly make politics much more representative, empower third parties, and give the people more of a voice in making decisions.

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