[EM] FWD - [instantrunoff] Minnesota column on IRV

Instant Runoff Voting supporter donald at mich.com
Fri Nov 24 02:41:40 PST 2000

  ------------ Forwarded Letter ------------
To: instantrunoff at egroups.com,
From: "Dan Johnson
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000,
Subject: [instantrunoff] Minnesota column on IRV

This note sent in from Steve Anderson on Minnesota, another candidate
for public office who campaigned for the instant runoff. Good job, Steve!
   There was an excellent column in favor of instant runoff in the
Thursday, Nov 16 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  (BTW,
there's a group that's planning to rewrite the Minneapolis City
Charter, and local Greens and Independence Party members are planning
to push for the idea of IRV for the Mayor's race.)

  Published Thursday, November 16, 2000
  Lori Sturdevant:
  Recent elections have made instant runoff voting look intriguing

Alan Shilepsky, come back. I want you to explain "instant runoff
voting" one more time.

This time, I promise to listen more closely.

When Shilepsky was running for secretary of state on the Reform
ticket in October 1998 and came to call on the Star Tribune, he was
revved up about a new kind of voting. Instead of marking a ballot
with a line or a colored-in oval or -- Mary Kiffmeyer forbid -- a
punched-out hole, he said people could vote with numbers. They could
mark their ballot with a "1" next to their first choice for an
office, a "2" next to their second choice, and so on.

The votes would be counted according to the number-one choices. But
if that initial count failed to give one candidate more than 50
percent of the vote, the count would continue with another step. The
ballots for the candidate in last place would be resorted according
to their second-place choices. The sorting would continue until one
candidate's count crossed the 50 percent threshold.

Have I got it right, Alan?

Instant runoff voting sounded complicated and unnecessary when
Shilepsky made it the centerpiece of his campaign in 1998. Back then -
- so long ago, it seems -- elections were assumed to be two-way
affairs, with a little color provided on the sidelines by the third-
party also-rans. If the sideshow made the winner's vote percentage
49.5 instead of 52.5, who cared?

That was before Shilepsky's ticket-mate Jesse Ventura was elected
Minnesota's governor. It was before Ralph Nader siphoned enough votes
away from Al Gore to -- most likely -- cost him the presidency.

It was before so many thoughtful participants in the Star Tribune-
Twin Cities Public Television Minnesota Citizens' Forum confided that
they sincerely wished for more choices on the general election
ballot -- and for some way to support a third-party candidate without
inadvertently electing a candidate they abhorred.

In today's light, instant runoff voting looks intriguing.

Granted, it is more complicated than marking a ballot with a single
X. But presumably, instant runoff voting would allow anyone who did
not care to express a second choice to mark a ballot with a single X -
- or 1 -- and call it an election.

Other than added complexity, however, the drawbacks of voting by the
numbers are hard to spot (though they are probably lurking out there,
in the land of unintended consequences). The virtues are more obvious.

For one, it would give any election winner the legitimacy of majority
support. A governor elected in a replay of the 1998 election in
Minnesota would not have to attempt to govern from a base of only 37
percent of the state's voters.

For another, it would put to rest the tired contention that a vote
for a third-party candidate is a "wasted vote." No legitimately cast
vote is ever wasted in a democracy. But a third-party vote this year
could assist a Republican or a Democrat whom the voter would rather
not help. Instant runoff voting would not let a third-party vote
accrue to the benefit of Mr. or Ms. Undesirable.

That might encourage more people to vote for third-party candidates.
Which might encourage more third parties. Which might make politics
more lively and engaging. And more fractious. (Aha! There's one of
those pesky unintended conse quences.)

On the other hand, a candidate in a multicandidate race would know
that he or she must get some second-place votes to win. Appealing
only to one's own base wouldn't get the job done. The need to court
the other candidates' supporters should enlarge each candidate's
agenda -- and, blessedly, tone down the attack ads.

Minnesota should not rush to change the way it votes. But this year's
presidential election is bound to generate great interest in new
voting methods and procedures. That should make the next legislative
session a fine one in which to give instant runoff voting a harder look.
Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.
She can be contacted at lsturdevant at startribune.com

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