|We Need Instant Runoff Voting
By Al Sheahen
Once again, the majority of California voters picked a loser.
Arnold Schwarzenegger received 48% of the vote in the Oct. 7 recall
election. In other words, more people voted against him than for him.
In 2002, Governor Gray Davis won with 47% of the vote.
Majority rule is a basic requirement of democracy. The will of a
minority should not defeat the will of the majority.
President George Bush won the 2000 presidential race with 48%. Bill
Clinton and Richard Nixon won with less than 45%. In 1994, three governors
won with less than 38%. In 1997, the mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., won with
What can we do to make sure the majority rules?
We need a way to promote majority rule in a single election. We need a
system that helps candidates to win with less campaign cash. We need a
system that allows us to vote for the candidate we like without helping to
elect the one we dont.
We need Instant Runoff Voting.
How does Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) work?
All you have to do is pick your favorite candidate, followed by your
runoff choices, and rank them: 1, 2, 3.
If a candidate has a majority of first choices, he or she wins. If no
one receives a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated and the
instant runoff begins.
Your vote counts for your favorite candidate who is still in the race.
The process is repeated until one candidate receives a majority of
votes. There is no need for a runoff election, so we save millions of
dollars in election costs. We improve voter turnout by giving voters more
choices. We promote positive, rather than negative, campaigning.
On Oct. 7, Republicans who preferred Tom McClintock could have listed
him as their first choice and Schwarzenegger as their second choice.
Democrats, Greens, and independents who preferred Peter Camejo and Arianna
Huffington could have listed them as their first and second choices and
Cruz Bustamante as their third choice.
If we had IRV in our last presidential election, Pat Buchanan, Ralph
Nader, and other minor party candidates would have been eliminated,
leaving voters with a clear, final choice between Al Gore and George Bush.
Whoever won, we would know they won because they represented the will of
the majority of Americans.
Instant Runoff Voting is used to elect the mayor of London, the
president of Ireland, and the Australian House of Representatives. San
Francisco voters have approved a ballot initiative that would allow them
to rank their top three preferences for the offices of mayor, district
attorney and sheriff. Eventually, it will eliminate the need for the
citys usual December runoff.
IRV eliminates the "spoiler" problem. Minor candidates could
no longer threaten major candidates. Voters can vote their conscience,
giving their first choice vote to a candidate they think may not win or
make it to the runoff without fear of "wasting" their vote.
IRV promotes positive campaigns. Candidates will need to convince
voters to give them their first or second-choice votes. Attack ads and
negative campaigning will not entice voters to give a mudslinging
candidate their second-choice vote.
IRV boosts voter turnout. Runoff elections can have extremely low
Because in each runoff tally every voters ballot is counted for
the candidate they most prefer among those still in the race, the winner
is always the candidate preferred by the true majority.
A bill has been introduced in Sacramento SCA 14 (Senate
Constitutional Amendment) by Senators John Vasconcellos, Dierdre
Alpert, Sheila Kuehl, Jack Scott, and Jackie Speier, that would establish
IRV in California elections. An initiative is also in the works.
IRV would ensure that everyones vote counted; that no candidate
would win without a majority.
In this computer age, there is no reason to accept less than full
Al Sheahen firstname.lastname@example.org
lives in Sherman Oaks, California. He is a member of the U.S. Basic Income
an edited version of this originally appeared in the LA Daily News.