Last evening’s election events—called spot-on by this amateur wonk in this blogspace last evening, by the way—offer me an opportunity to speak with you for a moment about an electoral concept that every American ought to take a moment to digest at some point in their political lives: Instant runoff voting.
Last night in Arkansas, you had exactly the situation we’d foreseen here at the imaginary think tank Crack Whores for Good Government, with Sen. Bland Lincoln forced into a runoff by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (and, to some extent, by D.C. Morrison, who garnered 13 percent of the vote). In Arkansas, you don’t win without a majority of the vote. So on June 8, voters will return to the polls and opt between Lincoln and Halter to see who will run against Republigoat John Boozman. That’s the “runoff.”
This method of voting, applied routinely, could turn the American elections system on its ear, empowering voters and opening up the field to third-party and non-conventional candidates. It could decimate “winner-take-all” voting. It could dismiss the typical American voter’s lament that, I would have voted for so-and-so, but I didn’t want to throw my vote away. It’s called “instant runoff voting,” and it could really be a doozy.
Here’s how it works.
Imagine if, instead of being faced with a slate of candidates and being forced to choose only one, you could rank them.
So, for instance on the 2008 ballot, I would have put Dennis Kucinich as my number one, probably Barack Hussein Obama as my #2, probably John Edwards as my #3 (hey, we didn’t know!), and maybe then Chris Dodd and the Hillary. So, instead of just voting for a single candidate, you get to put them in the order of your preference.
So the votes are counted. What you do, see, is you count the #1 votes. If one of the candidates has a majority of the #1 votes, he or she wins. If there’s no majority, then you throw out the low-vote-getter, and you count them again, this time using the #2 choices as your vote. And so on, until you get yourself a majority winner.
That it’s runoff voting keeps it constitutional. That it lets the voter RANK his or her choices hands the average voter Thor’s hammer, and for candidates, it blows the door wide open for third-party and/or unconventional candidates.
We should be pushing for this, which is the one best reason in the universe to get out and support your local Green Party, the only political organization in America that is actually taking IRV seriously. Push for this. Push for motor voter (my Granny G is not going to like that a bit). Push against term limits. Push to demolish the electoral college. Push for any and all initiatives that make your vote more powerful.
That’s what it is.
And everything I have just written has been stolen directly from liberal talker and author Thom Hartmann. Tag, you’re it!