Distributed Mind

Instant Runoff Voting and Electoral Reform

Yes, I know I still haven't written anything more about platform issues. We're in no hurry, herem though. And, I have to admit I have been sidetracked a little since I started thinking about electoral reform, and, more specifically, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) as my mentioned in the last entry.

Some quick research seems to suggest that there are no organizations pushing IRV specifically in Indiana (and it doesn't look like Illinois either for you Illinoisans). Well, of course, we have the Green Party, at the least, but they have a much broader platform, of course. And they don't really have a lot of traction in Indiana, sadly. Anyway, if I'm mistaken and anyone knows of anyone in Indiana (or any other states relevant to this limited, I mean, exclusive, readership) pushing this, please let me know. If it's true that there aren't any, I suppose that means I better be thinking about ways to fix that.

I think you all get the idea that I think this is important. The main reason why is that I can't imagine there being any long term hope of getting elected lawmakers who care about the issues I care about. It might happen every once in a while, but not often enough to make a difference. So, everything else I want to write about here is most like one giant waste of time without a change in the system. But even beyond that there's a fundamental principle of democracy at stake here. Democracy isn't democracy if people don't have a choice, and too many of us right now are voting for people we don't agree with much or even most of the time, or for candidates that have no chance of getting elected not because they don't represent voters but because they don't have the right party label. If you've ever felt like you didn't have a real choice in an election, then alternative voting systems are something you should be interested in. If you've ever voted for a candidate you didn't like instead of one you did because you thought it was more important to make sure a third candidate wasn't elected, this is something you should be interested in. If you think voting turnout is too low, alternative voting systems are something you should be interested in. (Am I being too hyperbolic? Maybe. But probably not.)

So, anyway, if I've convinced you, spread the word. If you want to step it up even more than that, be thinking about ways to make this happen in your state of residence. And if you live in Indiana, let's coordinate.

Okay, break!

[And on a related issue, the blog "Fort Wayne Observed" raises the issue of ballot access.]

[After spedning (too much) additional time looking to see what was out there, I found still nothing for Indiana - so if you know anyone who's currently doing this let me know! - but I did find that Illinois progressive activist (I guess you would call him) Dan Johnson-Weinberger is more than a little interested in IRV as is the Midwest Democracy Center, local chapter of the Center for Voting & Democracy (which is what prompted my meory and how we got started on this whole thing, as you'll recall), though their web page doesn't seem to be too actively updated and I wonder how active they are these days.]

[And, in case you're wondering who doesn't like IRV, I found an example of people saying it's too complicated and thus will make voting harder for minorities, etc. thus actually effectively disenfranchising voters. It's a legitimate concern though I'm inclined to say the cost is worth it, but it bears thinking about and discussing, I suppose. This stuff has been studied, so time to start doing some research... Of course, IRV and other such systems are used internationally, and also in certain places in the United States, so it's certainly doable. Minneapolis just approved IRV for certain city elections, that is set to start in 2009 according to the Star Tribune. That article also quotes the president of the Minnesota Voters Alliance who seems convinced that this is a bad idea and vows to oppose it in court. The article doesn't say why he doesn't like it and looking up the Minnesota Voters Alliance didn't really give me any more informtation, so... Council President Barbara Johnson opposes IRV becasue of added cost for implementing it.]

[Update, 8:37: On the topic of IRV making voting for minorities harder... A Pew survey showed that in 2006 while a majority of registered voters were satisfied with their available choices for their candidates for Representative, a significant minority of 43% was dissatisfied (which has been decreasing apparently, and in fact in 1990 the majority were dissatisfied - not the direction I would have expected). But the real kicker is that a larger percentage of blacks (they don't say how much, I'll try to find out later) were dissatisfied. (Also, oddly enough, those surveyed were less likely to be happy with their choices if their districts were considered to have "competetive" races, where apparently competetive was deefined by Pew.) On the other hand, a San Francisco State University study indicated that in terms of actual elections (based on one election in San Francisco, so not necessarily universally), minority voters were more likely to encounter problems. On a different angle, a League of Women Voters survey that alientation is not a factor in non-voting - though they do have a rather narrow definition of alienation, perhaps.]

[Update, 9:17 (last one, really!): I found the Minnesota Voters Alliance argument against IRV. I am sure one can formulate very convincing arguments against IRV, but that just isn't one...]

posted at 01:13:43 on 11/22/06 by ben - Category: Politics

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