Instant Runoff Voting

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!

Happy Birthday to the League of Women Voters

If you’re on Facebook, stop by and become a fan of the League of Women Voters.

This fine organization will be 90 years old tomorrow.

Let’s remember that this is an organization with, well, balls.

In 1976, 1980 and 1984, the nonpartisan organization sponsored the presidential debates. In 1988, the group’s board voted to withdraw becase, they said, tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee were making too many demands of the debate format. From the press release of Oct. 3, 1988:

The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates…because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.

It is a shame LWV is no longer running the debates. But this statement—issued after it became known that the Bush and Dukakis camps were secretly negotiating their debates’ terms—kicks ass.

Via Feministe.

Election Day

I love voting.

I do. I love to vote. Probably for the same reason that I keep this blog; because I’m a hyper-opinionated a-hole. Also, though, because I believe in it. I believe voting is the great equalizer. I don’t earn what Don Trump earns, but he and I have exactly the same number of votes. That is a core principle that I’m not sure many Americans either believe in or appreciate.

The first time I voted, it was for Jesse Jackson for President in the Ohio primary (yep, folks, this liberal was born that way…my first words were “stick it to the man…”). So I can’t help but be pleased that, a year ago and some 20 years after my first voting experience, these Untied States of America managed to elect a person of African-American heritage. Though for me, that’s not what Obama’s election was actually about. It was about competence.

And we got what we voted for, everybody. We did. If you thought you were voting for a revolution, then you threw your vote away. The man said “change,” not “table-tippin’.” He’s done it, and he’s done it right, cautiously, methodically, wisely. As I recall, President Clinton came to town and immediately and somewhat noisily went to work on the issue of homosexual people in the military. He was quickly shot down, and I think he suffered politically for it. President Obama has approached this place and the problems in front of him like it’s a big caged Rubik’s cube, but one that’s alive and vicious, with fangs and shredding claws. It’s the right approach, one that I think you’ll see pay off in stunning dividends as we proceed.

As a result already, we have an economy that hasn’t yet jumped off the ledge. We’re not out of the woods yet, and the fact is that this economy needs a major overhaul that is not yet being accomplished here—though the British may just be leading the way to true reform—and unemployment is still a bitch. But unemployment right now is only a big saw for Obama-hatahs to play. Even in good times, nobody’s on a hiring jag at the end of the fourth quarter. There will be a slight uptick as retailers get ready for the season, but you won’t see unemployment dip until February or so. But you’ll see it.

There has been mind-numbing action in these 287 days (thanks, Eugene Robinson). Freeing up FOIA requests and presidential records. New stem cell lines. Squashing the Global Gag Rule. Lilly Ledbetter. SCHIP reauthorization. Sotomayor. New emissions rules. The first television interview by a sitting president to an Arabic network and other vast attempts to reach to the Arab world. A solid pledge to leave Iraq. Closer to health care reform than we’ve ever been.

Oh. And I nearly forgot to mention. HE’S KEPT US SAFE.

Has he moved as quickly or been as bold as he might be? Nah. But as Fred Armisen pointed out in the SNL Digital Short, which was the last time Armisen has actually done the new president justice in impression…Obama plays it cool. Patience, people.

As with PB, my eyes are on Virginia today, hoping we fool the polls and elect the right man for the job, lest McDonnell start selling naming rights for our court houses. I’m also intensely curious about the 23rd district in New York. There is a word that has been invented that is precisely the perfect word to describe what’s happening there, and that word is “clusterfuck.” I suspect low turnout is going to flip the district to the “Democrat” column for the first time since like 1850.

There was not much unusual on my ballot. Deeds, Jody Wagner for Lt. Gov., Stephen Shannon for Attorney General. I did vote for Josh Ruebner for delegate, to lend the Greens a little support. Fisette for County Board. That is all.

Man. I love voting.

I Don't Think The Washington Post Will Mind…

…if I lift this entire piece completely. Go vote.

Some Facts About Today’s Primary

Today is Democratic primary day in Virginia.

When can I vote?

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Must I be a Democrat to vote?

No. Virginia does not register by party and has open primaries. Any registered voter can participate.

Which races are on the ballot?

Voters will choose a Democratic nominee to take on Republican Robert F. McDonnell for governor. State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Alexandria delegate Brian Moran are seeking the nomination.

Voters will also select a Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, deciding between Jody Wagner, a former secretary of finance from Virginia Beach, and Michael Signer, a campaign strategist and national security expert from Arlington County.

Also, there are 12 contested races for the House of Delegates, including four in Northern Virginia—two in Fairfax and one each in Arlington and Prince William County.

How do I find my polling place and verify that I am registered to vote?

Go to

In case you’re curious, my ballot was: Brian Moran, Jody Wagner, Miles Grant.