Minnesota Daily http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/02/16/67181
February 16, 2006
Election reform is necessary, but instant runoff voting is the most important first step.
Political apathy is rampant in the United States. Low voter turnout is a chronic problem at our elections; those voters who do turn out are not always informed about all the candidates and issues on the ballot.
One reason for nonparticipation often cited by citizens is frustration with the two-party system. Voters may root for a third-party candidate, or simply be opposed to the platforms of both mainstream parties. Perhaps they are fed up with all the mudslinging that goes on during campaigns.
A simple and effective solution is instant runoff voting. Instant runoff voting is used in many other countries, including Ireland and Australia, with great success. San Francisco recently has switched to instant runoff voting; voter turnout there was nearly three times higher than in the previous elections. Due to this success, other cities now are considering the use of instant runoff voting.
What is instant runoff voting? It is a system in which each voter ranks the candidates according to preference. Voters are not required to rank all the candidates; if a voter wishes only to designate a first choice, he or she may do so. Then, votes are tallied using a runoff method, taking each voter’s rankings into consideration. A consensus would be reached and a winner declared, all without forcing third-party voters to “throw away” their votes. To learn more about the specifics, see www.fairvote.org/irv/faq.htm and www.instantrunoff.com.
In systems where runoff voting is used, parties with similar ideologies are rewarded for working together; they can court votes by persuading voters to rank their “sister party” second. In our current system, parties that are the most similar to one another are each other’s greatest threats. Instant runoff voting would reduce the amount of mudslinging that occurs during campaigns and would require candidates to run more informative campaigns, highlighting their own positive attributes.
In this way, runoff voting assures true representation of all the people, requires that voters be highly educated about all parties who are running and discourages mudslinging behavior during campaigns. A several-pronged election reform is necessary, but adopting instant runoff voting is the most important step in bringing voters back to the polls.
A petition currently is circulating in Minneapolis to put instant runoff voting as an item on the ballot in the upcoming election. Voters then would be able to vote yes or no on the use of runoff voting. If it were to be instituted in Minneapolis and proved effective locally, it might be considered on the state level in the future.
If you would like to support instant runoff voting and you are a registered voter in Minneapolis, you can sign the petition by visiting www.fairvotemn.org/node/208. Ten thousand signatures are needed by May 8 to place the item on the ballot. You also can go to your political party’s caucus at 7 p.m. March 7 and support runoff voting. Directions are provided at www.fairvotemn.org/node/237.
If you are not a Minneapolis voter, you still can support instant runoff voting by volunteering for nonpartisan initiatives to reform our election procedures at www.betterballotcampaign.org, which can help you get involved with the Minneapolis campaign.
Instant runoff voting is the best way to make everyone’s vote count.
Sarah Zenk Blossom is a University student. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.