By: Don Fraser, September 23, 2006
On Nov. 7,
Our current voting method -- known variously as "plurality,"first-past-the-post" and "winner-take-all" -- is satisfactory so long as only two candidates are running for a single office. But many elections involve more than two candidates for an office.
Since 1998 in most statewide partisan elections the winner received less than a majority of votes because more than two candidates were seeking the office.
Minnesotans clearly enjoy having these choices on the ballot, based on what they tell public opinion pollsters. That argues for a voting system that winnows out the votes for less-favored candidates and allows the candidate with the most support to win the election. That's what instant runoff voting does. It allows the voter to rank the candidates in order of preference -- first choice, second choice, and so on. The votes cast for the least-popular candidates are not wasted -- they are redistributed among the more popular candidates based on voters' second or third choices. The candidate who ends up with a majority of the votes wins.
For city elections the
general election is not the problem, because at that point only two candidates
are on the ballot for each office. But in the primary election a larger field
of candidates must be reduced to only two. Using the instant runoff voting
produces the choices with the most support, and will permit
What about elections to
boards where more than one candidate is to be elected? In
A city that has adopted
instant runoff voting is
Instant runoff voting will not solve all our problems. But it will be a step toward ensuring that elections fairly reflect public sentiment. And if it produces the voter satisfaction that I believe it will, then perhaps the Legislature will look at it favorably and permit its use in statewide elections.