Authored on July 22, 2002

Governor Jesse Ventura announced last month that hewould not seek reelection. In a coup for the Independence Party, former DFLCongressman Tim Penny announced that he would switch parties and run forgovernor as an Independence Party candidate. Ventura's education commissioner,Christine Jax, first announced and then backed down from a bid for theIndependence Party nomination for governor. Ventura has endorsed Penny.

If anything could top Penny's move, it came when nineRepublican and Democratic current and former local and state elected officialsannounced they too would leave their respective parties to seek office asIndependence Party members. Most notable among these are Senator Sheila Kiscaden(R-Rochester) and Senator Martha Robertson (R-Stillwater), who was chosen byPenny as his Lieutenant Governor running mate. Rep. Dale Swapinski (DFL-Duluth)announced that he would seek reelection, but under the Independence Partybanner. Edwina Garcia, who had been the DFL's 1998 candidate for Secretary ofState, announced that she would run for the state senate as an IndependenceParty member.

Even before Penny's announcement, DFL and Republicanpolitical operatives were trying to position the centrist Penny farther to theright or left in order to help their own respective candidates. Each side seesPenny as threatening to split their voting constituencies; and each side willtry to play it so he takes more votes from the other side than from theirs.

Indeed, polls show Penny to be an immediately viablecandidate, taking a share of the vote from both the DFL's Roger Moe and TimPawlenty, the GOP candidate. Add to the mix returning candidate Ken Pentel, thistime with public financing and access to debates due to the Greens' new majorparty status, and a less-than-majority winner seems unavoidable. The samescenario could play out in legislative districts across the state with the newIndependence Party recruits on the ballot.

Instant Runoff Voting would improve the campaign season aswell as assure a majority winner in November. Instead of voting for just onecandidate, with IRV voters rank the candidates in order of preference. The votegoes to the top-ranked candidate. When the votes are counted, if no candidatehas a majority of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminatedand the votes cast for that candidate are transferred to the second choiceslisted on each ballot. The votes are recounted. This process is repeated untilone candidate has a majority of the votes.

To gather the majority of votes required to win,candidates need to appeal to rivals' supporters to be their second choice.With IRV, candidates would have an incentive to more accurately portray theirrivals and not 'spin' them as we've seen so far. Candidates would want toshow voters how they are similar to their rivals as well as how they differ. Theincentive structure in IRV would result in better information going to thevoters. This campaign season should provide plenty of opportunities for thesepoints to be made