[EM] Fw: [InstantRunoffNYS] Digest Number 52

Douglas Greene douggreene at earthlink.net
Fri Feb 21 06:13:52 PST 2003


While we're debating the perfect electoral system, VT and ME are poised to enact IRV.

Time to join the real world of lobbying, folks.  Theory is important, but bad sytems are being put into practice.


Portland Press Herald
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Support grows for switch to run-off voting
By TOM BELL, Portland Press Herald Writer

AUGUSTA — Election reform advocates are rallying behind legislation that
would establish the instant run-off voting method for national and state
elections. Supporters of the method - used in Australia and Ireland and
some U.S. and British cities - say it minimizes the "spoiler effect" that
occurs when an independent or third-party candidate prevents any candidate
from winning a majority of votes. 

Under the current system, they say, a candidate can win an election even
when a significant majority of voters vote for other candidates. They
to elections such as the 1998 election in Minnesota that elected Jesse
Ventura governor with just 37 percent of the vote. 

The issue has particular resonance in Maine, where each of last five
governors - John Baldacci, Angus King, John McKernan, Joseph Brennan and
James Longley - has won at least one election by less than a majority
King won with 36 percent of the vote in 1994 in a four-way race. 

Baldacci last November failed to win a majority vote in a three-way race
with Republican Peter Cianchette and Green Party candidate Jonathan

Instant runoff voting would create election results that "truly reflect
will of the people," said Thomas Bull, D-Freeport, the bill's sponsor.

The bill's supporters, who failed to win legislative support two years
are better-organized this year, and their list of co-sponsors include
Majority leader John Richardson, D-Brunswick, and Senate President Beverly
Daggett, D-Augusta. Three other legislators submitted similar bills. 

The opposition includes Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Town and
City Clerks Association. Both groups believe the proposal would confuse
voters, cause municipalities to spend money to reprogram their
ballot-counting machines, and make the job of hand-counting ballots even
more daunting.

"The process being presented to you is easier said than done," said MMA
lobbyist Kate Defour at a public hearing Tuesday before the Committee on
Legal and Veterans Affairs.

The instant runoff method works by simulating the ballot counts that would
occur if all voters participated in a series of run-off elections. Voters
are allowed to rank candidates according to their preference. If a
candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes, he or she is declared
winner. But if nobody gets a majority, the candidate with the fewest
first-choice votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes designated by
that candidate's supporters are distributed accordingly to the remaining

The process continues until one candidate receives a clear majority.

The Vermont Legislature, which has been studying the issue for several
years, is poised to enact the method this year. Vermont Secretary of State
Deborah Markowitz, an advocate for the new system, believes it will reduce
negative campaigning because candidates will reach out to supporters of
other candidates in search of second preferences. 

Arn Pearson, executive director of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund,
agrees. "It takes away the whole incentive to tear the other guy down," he

>From an academic position, the method is winning converts. The American
Political Science Association concluded that instant runoff is the most
efficient and democratic election system and adopted it to elect the
group's own leaders.

Cambridge, Mass. and San Francisco have adopted instant runoff voting, but
no state or county has used the method to elect state or federal
candidates. Julie Flynn, the Maine Secretary of State's deputy director,
told the legislative committee that the method does not have a proven
history of working in a complicated place like Maine, which has 647
precincts and 328 official ballot styles. She said 79 percent of the
state's municipalities hand count ballots. 

Establishing such a system in Maine, she said, would require extensive

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