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Tags democracy , instant runoff voting , Ranked Choice Voting , voting issues , voting systems

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Old 11th July 2004, 01:22 PM   #1
Nova Land
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A (slim) possibility for Instant Rerun Voting in US

Urgent note to Tricky!

Would you consider moving to New Mexico (at least for a few months)? You're one of the few people I can think of who might be able to make this interesting idea for IRV a reality. If you haven't already seen this, it's from the July 12 issue of The Nation (available on-line at http://thenation.com , but only if you're a subscriber to the magazine)
Quote:
De-Spoiling the Election by Steven Hill & Rob Richie

In 2000, Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the state of New Mexico by a mere 366 votes--a slimmer margin than in Florida. Ralph Nader polled 21,251 votes... Flash forward to 2004. Once again the Democratic and Republican candidates are locked in a tight race nationally. Once again Nader's entry into the race threatens Kerry's hold on New Mexico. And once again two candidates who share many views and bases of support--and who ideally could work together to challenge George W. Bush on the economy, the Iraq war, the future of Social Security, the environment, political reform and healthcare--instead are players in a Cain and Abel drama, courtesy of the all-or-nothing, winner-take-all nature of our presidential elections.

Yet there is a way out--if New Mexico Democrats decide they want one. Democrats control New Mexico's State Legislature, and one of Kerry's leading vice presidential contenders, Bill Richardson, is governor. Democrats could pass into law--right now--a runoff or instant-runoff system with a majority requirement for President, to insure that the center left does not split its vote between Kerry and Nader.

... The Constitution mandates the antiquated Electoral College system for electing the President, in which there are elections in fifty states and the District of Columbia rather than one national election. But the Constitution specifically delegates to states the method of choosing its electors. States historically have used a variety of different approaches... Nebraska and Maine, for example, award two electoral votes to the winner of the statewide vote and one vote to the winner of the popular vote in each Congressional district... The remaining states use a statewide winner-take-all plurality method whereby the highest vote-getter wins 100 percent of that state's electoral votes, even if that candidate wins less than a popular majority...

Better ... would be to adopt instant-runoff voting (IRV). Used in Ireland and Australia and recently adopted for city elections in San Francisco and for Congressional and gubernatorial nominations by the Utah Republican Party, IRV has drawn support from Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson Jr. and John McCain....
For those not familiar with the process, IRV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference when casting their ballots. Let's say you like Nader, think Badnarik as president would be a hoot, could tolerate Bush, and loathe Kerry. Instead of having to choose between voting for Nader who you really want or Bush you think is electable, you are free to do both. What you do is mark your ballot Nader-1, Badnarik-2, Bush-3. When the time comes to tally the votes, your vote goes to Nader.

Let's say the result is Kerry 44%, Bush 37%, Nader 12%, Badnarik 6%, and miscellaneous others 1%. Under the present rules, in most states all the electoral votes would go to Kerry. But with IRV, it's possible to do an instant runoff using the ballots already cast. For the first round of this, Badnarik and misc. others are eliminated. Any ballots with one of them as # 1 choice is re-examined to see who the second choice would be. If there is another candidate listed on the ballot who has not yet been eliminated, the vote is reassigned to that candidate. Since your first choice was Nader and he has not been eliminated yet, you are not affected by this and your vote continues to go for Nader.

Let's suppose the result of this first round redistribution is as follows: Kerry goes up 1 point to 45%, Bush goes up 2 points to 39%, and Nader goes up 4 points16%. Again, there is no winner, so another round will be needed. Nader is eliminated, and all Nader ballots are re-examined to see if the voter has indicated a preference for one of the remaining candidates (in which case the vote is re-assigned to that candidate). In your case, you did, and so your vote goes to Bush.

Interestingly, the count shows that most of Nader's voters, like you, listed Bush as their next choice. The 16% divides up as follows: 12 % goes to Bush, 4 % to Kerry. The final tally is Bush 51%, Kerry 49%! NOTE: Although this example is purely hypothetical, I want to assure people that the fact the voting machines involved were made by Diebold had absolutely nothing to do with the surprisingly large amount of votes that wound up being re-assigned to Bush.

One good thing about IRV is that, in general, you are not penalized for voting for the person you really want instead of the person you think is more likely to win. That's not always completely true, but it's much more true under IRV than under current US voting processes.

Instead of holding one's nose and making a choice between 2 candidates one dislikes, one is actually free to vote for the candidate one would like to see win. Can you imagine what the effect would be if this kind of thing became widespread?

Obviously, IRV is not a miracle or a cure-all for the problems of voting. As noted in the article, Australia already uses a form of IRV, and paradise hasn't been achieved there yet. Even so, IRV seems to me to be an improvement on the present US system and an experiment worth trying.
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Old 11th July 2004, 03:54 PM   #2
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Sounds cool. Any reason why lawmakers and politicians would not want this in the USA?
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Old 11th July 2004, 05:58 PM   #3
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On a local level, our community in Michigan has made noises about trying this out. I believe that some elections in November will use this method, although I'm not sure. I think it would be excellent. I think it is horrible that we have to think about "A vote for A is a vote for B."

But I don't know if the Powers That Be will like the idea. The Democratic and Republican parties know that "third party" and independent candidates almost never win elections under our system, because they have successfully been shooed to the fringes. If a candidate from some other party does well, the result is that the "major" candidate with views closest to the "third party" candidate loses. Everyone knows that, and it's a powerful incentive to vote for someone you don't want, and that in turn perpetuates the power of the party organization.

On a practical note, it's also much more confusing for voters that, shall we say, didn't score so high on the analytical portion of the test. In the last election, the guy who won Florida pulled out a win because people couldn't figure out a ballot with candidates side by side. This would make things more confusing.

Still, I hope this happens for all elections. The extra confusion would be well worth it compared to our current situation, where people have to vote strategy instead of conscience.
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Old 11th July 2004, 08:50 PM   #4
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That's an interesting idea, but I'd prefer to have a "none of the above" option on the ballot. If "none of the above" wins, require a new election w/ different candidates. This would help keep the major parties from force-feeding candidates on the general electorate who were chosen in large part by special interest fringe goups, such as big labor and fundamentalist Christians.

I know it's probably impractical at the national level, but I can dream, can't I?
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Old 12th July 2004, 02:21 AM   #5
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Actually, I quite like that idea, Wildcat. Plus, it might decide once and for all whether low turnouts are due to voter apathy or protest non-voting.
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Old 12th July 2004, 05:40 AM   #6
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Re: A (slim) possibility for Instant Rerun Voting in US

Form the article:

Quote:
... The Constitution mandates the antiquated Electoral College system for electing the President, in which there are elections in fifty states and the District of Columbia rather than one national election. But the Constitution specifically delegates to states the method of choosing its electors. States historically have used a variety of different approaches...
So then could a state just do away with the popular election altogether?
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Old 24th July 2004, 04:36 AM   #7
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Re: A (slim) possibility for Instant Rerun Voting in US

Quote:
If you haven't already seen this, it's from the July 12 issue of The Nation (available on-line at http://thenation.com , but only if you're a subscriber to the magazine)
Since posting this, I have discovered the item in question is now available for on-line reading at Working For change.

Here are a few other interesting sites related to IRV:

(1) chrisgates.net has a nice interactive demonstration of IRV in action, as well as a good Q & A page.

2. fairvote.org illustrates how IRV was successfully used in one of the most important (yet shockingly under-reported) elections of our time:
Quote:
Starting in the early '90s, the Henson production company started to pay the Muppets with stock options rather than a straight salary. Quietly, the Muppets, as a group, gained a controlling interest in the Henson production.

In a move that shocked the world, the Muppets decided to elect one of their own as the CEO of the company. Being savvy students of the world, the Muppets chose instant runoff voting in order to elect a candidate who would best reflect their views. They decided to choose among five candidates: Beaker, Elmo, Ernie, Miss Piggy and Oscar the Grouch...
3. A good basic site is www.fairvote.org/irv/ (web site of the Center for Voting and Democracy).

4. Another site with good explanation of IRV, and some fun illustrations of how IRV works, is California IRV Coalition.
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Old 24th July 2004, 04:50 AM   #8
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Re: Re: A (slim) possibility for Instant Rerun Voting in US

Quote:
Originally posted by Rob Lister

So then could a state just do away with the popular election altogether?
Under certain circumstances, states already do. For example, if a US Senator or Representative dies in office, in many states the governor appoints a replacement.

It would be incredibly unpopular for some state to pass a law that henceforth the selection of members of Congress would be done by a vote of the state legislature (or by gubernatorial appointments), but I think it would be constitutional.

Ditto for presidential elections (I think...)

(Just so that no one gets the wrong impression, I'd like to emphasize that the point of IRV is not to do away with popular elections but to improve them -- make them more popular and more reflective of the popular will.)
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Old 24th July 2004, 05:04 AM   #9
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Re: Re: Re: A (slim) possibility for Instant Rerun Voting in US

Quote:
Originally posted by Nova Land
(Just so that no one gets the wrong impression, I'd like to emphasize that the point of IRV is not to do away with popular elections but to improve them -- make them more popular and more reflective of the popular will.)
Sometimes pointing out an alternate door brings into focus the many other alternates that also exist. This could be a good thing...or not...from any given point of view and any given point in time.
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Old 24th July 2004, 05:17 AM   #10
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Originally posted by Tony
Sounds cool. Any reason why lawmakers and politicians would not want this in the USA?
Because it would reduce the power of the Democratic and Republican parties. People would--*gasp*--be able to actually vote for who they want, rather than be bullied into a "lesser of two evils" vote.
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Old 24th July 2004, 05:56 AM   #11
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Originally posted by WildCat

... I'd prefer to have a "none of the above" option on the ballot. If "none of the above" wins, require a new election w/ different candidates.

I agree that allowing people a "none of the above" option would enable people to express their true sentiments more easily.

Voting, to a large extent, is a scam. It is important in majority vote to come up with a winner, and for that winner to be seen as being the "people's choice". By keeping the (realistic) choices down to 2 parties, the illusion is preserved that one of them is the majority choice. Permitting a "none of the above" option threatens that illusion.

The big problem with a "none of the above" option is that (as you noted) it's probably impractical, since if "none" wins a new election is needed (with no guarantee that will come up with a winner either). At present it is probably too costly to have to hold additional elections for national offices, as well as raising a lot of difficult questions about what to do about the office until someone is elected.

Actually, you can vote for "none of the above" under the present US presidential voting system. One way of doing this is to cast a blank ballot, thus indicating you do not want any of the listed candidates. (You can also write a phrase such as "none of these candidates is fit to hold this office" somewhere on the ballot form (such as in the write-in line) -- this spells out your reason for casting a blank ballot fairly plainly, so that your ballot isn't mistakenly thought to be simply a spoiled ballot. The problem with this is that, routinely, such ballots are simply discarded, and the number of people casting such "none of the above" votes is not recorded or reported.

Simply requiring these votes to be included in the reported vote totals (even if no special place is provided on the ballot and even if they do not produce a new election) would be an improvement --and an inexpensive one, at that. We would, of course, still be electing plurality candidates, but an honest tally of the votes would at least make voter dissatisfaction with the candidates a little clearer.

But what I think would be better than a "none of the above" option -- and which would not be difficult to implement -- is to allow people to cast either a for or against vote. Let's face it: many people this fall are planning to vote not so much for Kerry as against Bush. Why not let people honestly vote that way?

The mechanics of such a thing would be fairly simple. On the ballot, next to each candidate's name, instead of one space (as there is now) there would be a choice of two. You would still be allowed to mark only one of the available spaces, but now in a 2-candidate race you would have 4 options: for candidate A, against candidate A, for candidate B, or against candidate B.

In counting, all 4 of these categories would be tallied separately. Each candidate's against votes would be subtracted from their for total, and whoever's result was higher would be the winner.

For instance, suppose there were 32,000,000 votes for Kerry, 32,500,000 against Kerry, 28,000,000 votes for Bush, and 30,000,000 against Bush. Kerry's final total would be -500,000 and Bush's would be -2,000,000.

(It thus becomes possible for a person to be elected to office with a negative vote count: "And John Kerry beat George Bush, -500,000 to -2,000,000, to become our next president.")
Yes, I know it's electoral votes, not popular votes, that determine the actual winner. I'm just trying to illustrate the basic idea.
Allowing people to vote against candidates would probably not change the outcome of the election. If more people prefer Kerry to Bush, it doesn't matter in determining the winner whether people liked Kerry or disliked Bush. But elections are not simply about determining the winner. Knowing how much (or little) public support or enthusiasm there is for the winner is important too. Candidates who win generally think they have been given a mandate to implement their policies -- the larger their margin of victory, the more of a mandate they assume they possess. Permitting negative votes could make it clearer whether there is genuine support for their policies or simply greater opposition to their opponent's.
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Old 24th July 2004, 09:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cleon
Because it would reduce the power of the Democratic and Republican parties. People would--*gasp*--be able to actually vote for who they want, rather than be bullied into a "lesser of two evils" vote.
Yep.
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Old 24th July 2004, 02:03 PM   #13
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It is an interesting idea, but often I do vote on the lesser of two evil, so I would prefer to have a system where I had more control.

There are times where is would not just be A, B, C , there may be times where I would want to vote for C if D was going to win and times I would vote for B if D was going to loose.

There are also times that i cross vote and I have voted republican frequently, so again I would rather have a real runoff myself. Because while I might vote for democrat A, I might of might not vote for the democrat B depending, because I might vote republican C. For example, I voted for Jim Edgar for Govenor twice because I really despised the democratic nominee, but had I been able to vote for a different democrat in the runoff, I mighyt have done so.

The one solution I see to the whole political thing is to limit candidates and their parties a total amount of TV time in a single market. Say one hour a day.
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