Rocky Mountain News soft no on IRV
- A sign of progress: opposition.
(If no one opposes your idea, then it hasn't been advocated or discussed
enough to earn any attention).
This editorial in today's Rocky Mountain News is a reaction to the Denver
discussion on using instant runoff voting.
My personal thought: if people want to hold two elections and put the
taxpayers, candidates and voters through the expense, then that's a
principled reason not to like instant runoff voting.
But why stop at two? Why not hold three runoff elections, or four, or five?
That way, you can *really* get debates among the candidates.
Anyway, here's the editorial.
Instant runoff no answer in Denver
May 9, 2003
Should Denver get rid of its two-stage election system and go to an "instant
runoff" that eliminates the need for a second vote?
It's tempting to say yes given the prospect of four more weeks of
campaigning and the fact that the city's charter revision committee is
studying whether to recommend just such an instant runoff system to voters.
But if the past two months have demonstrated anything, it's that such a
change would be a mistake.
An instant runoff is widely used in Ireland and Australia, and in Britain to
elect London's mayor. The idea is catching on in the United States, too
(where it was actually invented).
Under the system, voters get to rank their choice of candidates from first
to last place. Then, if no one gets a majority of votes, the candidate who
comes in last is eliminated and the second place votes that went with his or
her ballots are transferred to the remaining contenders. This process
continues until someone is pushed over the top.
The advantages of such a system are nothing to scoff at - particularly if
the alternative is not a second round of voting but declaring a winner who
lacks a majority of votes. In addition, voters are more likely to select a
dark horse or third party candidate they honestly prefer if they can give
the No. 2 ranking to someone who has a better chance of winning. For that
reason alone, instant runoffs may well boost turnout.
However, none of these arguments is overpowering in Denver. First of all, no
one but an at-large council candidate can slip into office without a
majority of votes. And all contests are non-partisan, meaning anyone with
significant credentials can leap into a race and be treated seriously by the
news media and, eventually, by voters as well.
Nor is there a compelling reason for voters to ignore long shots. Supporters
of Susan Casey, for example, knew from the polls that none of the front
runners was likely to attract a majority of votes in the first round, so
they could safely vote for her without worrying that they might be throwing
their vote away.
Our single biggest objection to an instant runoff in Denver, however, is
that the first round of campaigning is simply too unfocused given the large
number of candidates who are often involved. And because that's the case, a
relatively unknown outsider could ride a brief wave of public enthusiasm to
victory before an opponent had a chance to unmask the newcomer's
The joint campaign appearances of the past six weeks often amounted to a
series of disjointed (and often repetitive) statements from the seven
mayoral candidates, with little chance for rebuttal or actual debate. All
that came to an end on Tuesday. John Hickenlooper and Don Mares now have one
month to make not only the case for their own candidacy but also a case
against their opponent, which often is no less important.
Meanwhile, voters can watch to see who stands up better under the far more
intense pressure of a one-on-one, all-or-nothing match.
Midwest Democracy Center
325 West Huron #304
Chicago, IL 60610
Electing a legislature?
Use cumulative voting in three-member districts so all voters have a
Electing an executive like governor, mayor or president?
Use instant runoff voting so the winner has a majority mandate and no
vote is wasted
"Those who are saying it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are
doing it." Chinese proverb