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February 27, 2009 08:02 AM UTC

Something old, something new

  • by: NeonNurse

No, no one I know is getting married. I just ran across an interesting link to a page for some people who want to re-start the Whig party.  Interesting stuff!

This could be an idea whose time has come. I’ve seen quite a few online laments in the past few days from Republicans who feel that the Radical Right has swiped the party they thought they knew out from under them. I can understand them not feeling ready to switch over to the Dem side. So maybe a new centrist party is the answer.

What would be needed to make that work, of course, is a radical change in how elections are run (and good luck with THAT). It could be done, though. Ken Gordon from here in Colorado proposed a change only a few years ago that would work well. It’s called run-off balloting.

What that means is that voters could add a second choice to their ballot.  Let’s say in a pretend race we have the A, B, C, D and E parties represented by candidates.

We’ll call A and B the long-time traditional parties, who used to be the only games in town. But the new C, D and E parties have strong core groups of supporters and a lot of fresh ideas, plus it’s something new so they are getting a lot of media coverage.

So when the votes are tallied, wow, shock! NO ONE got over 50%, which is the minimum required to win outright.  It came out like this A: 30%, B: 29%, C: 9%, D: 12% and E: 20%.

The lowest number of votes were for the C candidate, so he’s out. Now the second choice votes of that candidate’s supporters come into play. They are added to the totals of the votes for the other four candidates. Now the count is A: 31%, B: 30%, D: 12% and E: 27%.

Still no 50%, so we go again, now taking off the D candidate and counting the second choice votes.  That brings us to A: 34%, B: 32% and E: 34%. Wow, getting exciting now, eh?

B is now eliminated. (Let me pause a second to say this is an over-simplified explanation, because some of the D 2nd votes might have been for the C candidate in the second round, and some of the B’s 2nd votes might have been for Ds and Cs. So it would take a lot of figuring and rules to work out the details, and probably computers as well, and…yeah. Plus it would come down to individual votes rather than percentages. But let’s press on, shall we?)

Basically whichever candidate, A or E, gets at least 16% of B’s voters 2nd choice votes gets boosted to the magic 50% number and wins the election. Since A and B have historically been rivals, E stands a very good chance of being the winner!

Like I said, a highly simplified version of the process.  I probably won’t see it in my lifetime, but who knows? Fun to think about!


2 thoughts on “Something old, something new

  1. I have always been interested in IRV, ever since the 2000 election. I used to be a (big L) Libertarian, and I liked the idea of being able to vote third party symbolically, knowing that my candidate would get thrown out and my second choice would win.

    It definitely makes recounts easier, but some people see it as a violation of the “one person, one vote” tradition–even though it is ultimately only one vote. They save money over costly runoff elections, and they make close elections far less contentious.

    If you ask me, I don’t think they’d necessarily help a third party. In the end, the only way a third party can have success is by winning elections. Symbolic gestures from voters are nice, but I think Blue v. Red would still be the status quo.

    1. …on the candidate, not the party per se. Ol’ John Anderson did surprisingly well in 1980, and both Nader and Perot were spoilers in their runs.  If voters became convinced that IRV (I think you are right about the term) meant they wouldn’t be “throwing their vote away”, the less common party candidates might actually have a genuine shot at winning.

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