Authored on September 13, 2002

Florida voting debacle: the sequel?

MIAMI -- Despite a $32 million renovation, Florida's new election system crashed in an embarrassment that, like the 2000 election, left voters wondering whether their votes counted, candidates pondering recounts and everyone asking who's to blame... 'It's not just Florida. It's a national problem," said Rob Richie, executive director of the Maryland-based Center for Voting and Democracy. "We will have lots of problems in the next two months." "Finger-pointing in Florida, talk of recount and worries about November," Star Tribune, September 12, 2002.

Moe campaign betting on being First Past The Post

"Moe's brand of politics is getting repositioned," Doug Grow, Star Tribune, August 25, 2002.

Foregoing flash and Forciea, the Moe campaign will return to "old-school politics," says new campaign manager Bill Harper. "The beauty is, all we have to do is win over the Democrats. In this [multiple-candidate] race, we don't have to win 51 percent of the vote." Translation: Since a winner will likely be determined by less than a majority of the voters, the campaign will adopt a strategy of turning out its core constituency and not bother with a broad appeal. There's black and white evidence of how the voting system affects the campaign.

Pawlenty on Instant Runoff Voting: "I kind of like it."

"Hour 1: Gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty," Midday with Gary Eichten, Minnesota Public Radio, August 15, 2002.

Tim Pawlenty said he is concerned about the lack of majority winners in a multiparty environment and thinks Minnesota should consider runoff elections. When a caller asked him what he thought about Instant Runoff Voting he said, "I want to think about it some more, but I kind of like it." You can listen to the webcast at

Pentel calls for IRV and proportional representation as part of "democracy package"

"Hour 1: Gubernatorial candidate Ken Pentel," Midday with Gary Eichten, Minnesota Public Radio, August 12, 2002. You can listen to the webcast at

Steven Hill slams "fixed" elections on WCCO Radio

WCCO Radio's "Midday Live" with Kim Jeffries, August 9, 2002. Steven Hill, western regional director of the Center for Voting and Democracy (, was invited on the air to discuss the theme of his new book, Fixing elections: The failure of America's Winner-Take-All politics ( Hill's theme in the interview: Our elections are FIXED, rigged -- from redistricting to how campaigns are conducted in a WTA system using polling and focus groups to slice and dice the electorate, voters are being cut right out of the political process.

Independence Party could change politics in the state

"IP could force significant changes," Lenora Chu, The Post-Bulletin of Rochester, August 6, 2002.

Rochester has traditionally been moderate Republican territory. It was also the area represented by Tim Penny when he was in Congress. Former Republican Sheila Kiscaden is running for reelection to her Rochester senate seat on the Independence Party ticket. Penny left the Democratic Party to run as the Independence Party's gubernatorial candidate. Post-Bulletin reporter Lenora Chu examines the implications.

While there is uncertainty over how the Independence Party will affect the outcome of the election,(w)hat will certainly result from the presence of IP candidates is a refocusing of the issues during the campaign season, analysts say. "There will be more talk about campaign finance, lobbying and what you could call political reform of the process," said Carleton political science professor Steven Schier.

Analysts also expect the IP's momentum to boost voter interest and turnout at the polls in November. Tony Solgard, chairman of FairVote Minnesota, a nonprofit group that advocates alternative voting systems, pointed to the 1998 general election as evidence. Turnout across the country reached record lows that year."But in Minnesota, it was exactly the opposite," Solgard said. "We had close to a record high turnout, and pretty much all observers of politics would attribute that to (the presence of) three viable candidates. Voters like having a lot of choices."

Considering post-election scenarios, [i]f either party takes control of a chamber by a comfortable margin, IP legislators will hold less sway. But if the two traditional parties are evenly divided or win majorities by only a small number of seats, IP legislators will be courted vigorously by both sides.

"Say it's a 67 to 65 (margin) in the House with two Independence legislators," [said lobbyist Wy Spano]. "Then all of a sudden you have one caucus and the other coming to (the IP legislators) and saying 'if you vote for our person for speaker, we'll give you this, this and this." (subscription required to read on-line article)