There have been some great letters to editors and editorials in
Missoula this month. Great job to the writers! I have posted them
below for everyone's information.
(Formerly of Missoula, currently of London, Ontario)
The first was a letter to the Missoulian by Deborah Richie
Oberbillig printed Sept 20th:
Instant runoff' would save money
After voting in the primary election this September, I found myself
wishing I could vote once this fall and eliminate the long and
expensive campaign season. In fact, we could eliminate the primary
by electing majority winners in a single-round "instant runoff." San
Francisco uses this system now and has sharply cut the costs of
running for office by holding one instead of two elections.
Taxpayers there will save $20 million over the coming decade.
Suppose we were using an instant runoff this year. Instead of having
two elections, we'd elect a majority winner in one election in
November, when more people vote. With six mayoral candidates, voters
would indicate their favorite choice, but also have the option to
indicate their runoff choices by ranking the candidates in order:
first choice, second choice and so on.
To determine the winner, we would add up the first choices. If a
candidate had a majority of at least 50 percent, plus one, we'd have
a winner. If not, the top candidates would advance to a second
runoff round of counting. If your first choice is one of those
candidates, your ballot again would count for that candidate. If
your first choice didn't earn enough votes to advance, your ballot
would count for your next choice candidate in the runoff.
For voters, this is as easy as one, two, three. Ballot counting is
easy as well with modern voting equipment that counts votes rapidly
and efficiently. Take a look at www.fairvote.org for a wealth of
information on instant runoff voting and its impressive success
Another letter to the editor was printed in the Missoulian Sept 27th
by Eric Mendelson:
Instant runoff vote the way to go
By Eric Mendelson
Published September 27th 2005 in The Missoulian
The close results of our recent mayoral primary will leave many
frustrated voters and "if-only-I'd" voters. There is a better way:
instant runoff vote elections, a method Deborah Oberbillig proposed
on this page on Sept. 20. This method eliminates the need for
primary elections and has other advantages. How do I know? I co-led
an IRV special election in Ithaca, N.Y., a few years ago. It proved
more efficient and most of all, yielded a fairer representation of
voters' preferences. Also, voters in various locations who've rank-
choice voted (IRVs) usually want more IRV elections.
Standard American elections can offer reasonable results with two
candidates. Less fair results often come with multiple candidates.
Imagine an election with candidates getting similar numbers of
votes: Candidate A getting 2,204 votes, B getting 2,206, C getting
2,211 votes and D 500. Let's picture an IRV feature: that voters got
to cast their second choices, too, on their ballots. When no
candidate receives an outright majority of first-choice votes, the
lowest vote-getter is eliminated, and his voters' second choices get
counted as votes for remaining candidates. If Candidate A in my
hypothetical election was the second choice of 5,820 voters, an
overwhelming majority, who'd better represent the will of the
voters: A? Or would B and C?
If this were a standard election's primary, B and C would move on to
the general election, repeating their whole campaigns (any wonder so
many voters blow off primaries?) with Candidate A eliminated. Yet, I
suggest that A might well turn out the clear voter preference were
he or she included in the general election. A single IRV election
would democratically provide a winner chosen by at least 50 percent
of voters, not a pair of temporary winners from a plurality of the
few primary voters. I endorse Oberbillig 's IRV idea to prevent
another this-just-doesn't-seem-right election result. We voters and
our next mayor deserve better.
Finally, the Missoula Independent endorsed IRV! See below:
Published September 22nd 2005 in Missoula Independent
Last week's six-candidate mayoral primaryand a dead heat for the
second slot in November's runoff electionraises the issue of
whether Missoula's voting system is the most effective and efficient
way to discern voter preference for the candidates.
It doesn't seem to be the most effective way to decide elections,
because even prior to the recount that begins on Friday, fully 2,260
primary votes will not matter a whit to who gets on the ballot in
November; soon nearly 1,600 more voters will be added to that total.
Likely, nearly every one of those voters had a #2 in mind. If we are
interested in elections that accurately reflect voter preference,
these second choices ought to play a role.
There is a way to do this: Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV allows
the expression of a first preference as well as secondary and
tertiary preferences; essentially, it allows voters to rank
candidates. It's not a new concept; IRV has been used in Australia
for over a century and is currently used in San Francisco and
Cambridge, Mass., city elections.
To see how IRV would work, consider how it would have handled John
D'Orazi's 624 voters. When it became clear that no candidate had
earned a majority, votes for the sixth-place finisher would have
been reallocated among the remaining candidates according to the
second preferences of D'Orazi voters as expressed on their ballots.
This process of reallocating votes could continue, encompassing the
second (and sometimes third) preferences of Jerry Ballas, Clayton
Floyd and probably Geoff Badenoch voters until one candidate had
earned a majority of all votes cast.
And there's where the efficiency comes in. An election run under
instant runoff rules eliminates the need for poorly-attended primary
elections altogether, avoiding redundant administrative costs while
better reflecting actual voter preference, rather than the
organizing power of a candidate's election machine.
Ultimately, IRV might even encourage greater participation by
eliminating the need for voters to choose between a minority
candidate representing their views and an electable lesser of two
Currently, Article IV, Section 5 of the Montana Constitution
declares, "in all elections held by the people, the person or
persons receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared
elected," which conflicts with the mechanics of IRV. That wording's
intention, doubtless, is to ensure that the preferences of voters
are respected and reflected in electoral outcomes.
If there's a better method of determining those preferencesand it
seems IRV might be just thatthen it might be time to explore what
revisions would be necessary to allow Missoula and other localities
to implement it.