Sunday, August 29, 2010

Instant Run-off Voting

So, I was at the Rising Tide 5 conference for bloggers and citizen journalists yesterday at The Howlin Wolf. There were a number of good panels, one of which dealt with politics. The panelists started talking about past elections and how the entrance of some candidates ends up altering the election. We've seen this numerous times (think Nader and Gore in 2000), and as I pay attention to the upcoming congressional elections some national bloggers (like Talking Points Memo) are point out potential third-party spoiler alerts all over the U.S. It makes me think, is this how democracy is supposed to work?

What happens is that a person wins an election, which is supposed to mean that s/he is the most liked by the voters, because votes are split between his/her opponents. This means that, for example, if one republican is running against a democrat and a third-party (say the green party), and 65% of the voters either vote for the green or democrat (who presumably would both disagree with much much of the republican platform), the republican can win with receiving 45% of the vote. On the surface this might sound ok, but it means that 65% of voters didn't want the republican. In essence, the republican snuck his or her way in. Is this how it's supposed to work? As I thought about this more, I thought of a grading system where voters get to rank their choices. Lets say there are 5 different people running for major or governor, a voting system where we rank in order of preference, the candidates we want. With five candidates we could rank them 1-5, our first choice would receive 5 points, our second 4, our third 3, and so on. I think a system like this would allow elections to better represent the voice of the citizens.

There's already a movement to change voting systems that is picking up steam. It's called Instant Run-Off voting and is somewhat similar to the model I offered above. I posted a couple links below that better explain this option. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. I understand implementation will be hard, though some cities have done it (sometimes because of court order). I'm more concerned with developing a sound model, we can discuss implementation once we know what we want and why.

Check out these links:

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