Arthur, an expat American living in New Zealand, on one of his recent podcasts, maybe #116 or #117 (I’m too lazy to check) was talking about different ways to vote in different counties. One of the methodologies sound a awful lot like what’s being called around here instant runoff voting. Though I’ve never had the opportunity to vote by this method, I’m inclined to support it. You can read about it in the link I provided, but let me try to explain by example.

Let’s say there were five people running for President. Just for fun, we’ll call them Barr, McCain, McKinney, Nader and Obama. IRV allows one to vote for the candidate one most desires without worrying about “throwing away” a vote on a minor party candidate. So one could vote for 1. McKinney 2. Nader 3. Obama 4. Barr. If someone gets a majority of the vote, then the race is settled. But let’s say that the vote is 34% each for McCain and Obama, 14% for Barr, 10% for McKinney and 8% for Nader. In turn, the Nader votes would be distributed to Nader voters’ second choice. Since a majority still would not be reached, McKinney’s and then, if necessary, Barr’s votes would be distributed. It may still come down to “lesser of two evils”, but one could vote for a third party candidate without concern that the candidate would be a spoiler.

This would be most important in those jurisdictions, such as Louisiana, that REQUIRE a majority vote. Those runoffs, unless they are held on the day of the general election, almost invariably involves an even smaller number of voters than the first round. add to that, an extra round of voting is expensive. Instant runoff voting would eliminate the need for those costly redoes.

Of course, the problem with the system is that there is a real possibly that people might actually ELECT a third party candidate if they’re not discouraged by the notion of a wasted vote. The machinery of the Democrats and Republicans alike will see in in their best interest to oppose it. Yet it has made headway in a number of cities and towns across the country.

Anyone who’s actually an expert on IRV and wants to dispute any of this, feel free.

Oh, here’s a new flash animation on a variation of instant runoff voting used in elections for more than one seat – making it a system of proportional representation.
The Racialicious podcast on Why you shouldn’t listen to polls, an interview with David W. Moore. A main point: Americans weren’t as rah in favor of the Iraq war as the polls suggested, based on the formulation of the question. Last month, a Wall Street Journal review of Moore’s book, the Opinionmakers, criticizes this specific point, noting (correctly) that more people were leaning towards supporting the war. But the leaners, who were forced to come down on one side or another on the issue, might have answered differently had the question been phrased differently, or if “no opinion” was a real option.


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