Election Methods and Equipment

Date: 1 Dec 2008 | posted in: governance | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

While some reformers believe that campaign finance reform will cure many of the ills of our election process, others feel the key is proportional representation, or other, related reforms.  Some have begun to question the very equipment we use to vote.

Proportional representation is a system for electing legislatures. In elections for a single, executive position, the winner-take-all principle still applies. However, Australian-style instant runoff voting (IRV) would eliminate the "wasted vote" or "spoiler" effects of third-party candidates in such elections. In our current system, voters are reluctant to choose a third-party candidate because they may take away votes from a more viable contender who is their second choice. This causes voters to cast their vote for the lesser of two evils rather than their top choice.

Australia uses IRV for parliamentary elections, Ireland uses it to elect the president and the United Kingdom may well adopt it within the next year in a national referendum on parliamentary elections. Instead of conducting primaries followed by general elections, all of the candidates run in a single election. Voters rank candidates in order of choice: 1,2,3 and so on. If no candidate wins a majority (more than 50%) of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated. Ballots cast for that candidate are redistributed to each voter’s next choice. This process of elimination occurs until a candidate wins majority support.

Statesthat might well adopt IRV in the future include Alaska, California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont. The local movement for instant runoff voting continues to gather steam.