Opinions: Restoring order to the voting system

Collin Phillips // Published February 20, 2008 in ASU Web Devil
Although collecting petition signatures is necessary for the Green Party to get on the ballot, changing the way individuals vote can make Greens, and all third party candidates like Libertarians, actually viable in upcoming elections.

Currently, many individuals will forego voting for their favorite candidate in order to vote for another to ensure that candidate's victory. I'm talking about Nader supporters voting for Gore, just so he had a better chance of beating Bush in 2000. Individuals shouldn't have to vote for a different candidate because their first choice might be detrimental to another main-party candidate. The Greens, Libertarians and all other third parties should embrace instant runoff voting.

When you vote using IRV, you rank on the ballot your candidate choices in the order you like them. After everyone has voted, the vote counter runs the race using each voter's first- choice vote. If no candidate gets at least 50 percent, the candidate with the lowest total is dropped, and the votes are tallied again. If your first-choice candidate was dropped, your second choice becomes your first. This is done until one candidate has a clear majority of the votes.

This means that all voters can now vote for the candidate they like, without feeling that they may be throwing their vote away. But there are other benefits to IRV, even if you are supporting a popular candidate.

First, IRV ensures that individuals are elected with a majority of the vote, instead of just a plurality, adding to their mandate. Many politicians are elected by a plurality instead of a majority of the vote, implying that their support isn't at least that of half the community.

Second, IRV helps prevent voter apathy. Take our own USG. During the 2007 election, there was a 30.6 percent drop-off in votes from the general election to the runoff election. (Yes, there is a runoff election you need to vote in.)

Third, it's cheaper. Those of you who want to lower taxes should take note of this. IRV, if done properly, will mean there is only one election to vote in, and the government doesn't need to pay to hold multiple elections, since, as the name implies, all runoff elections are done instantaneously.

If you like the idea of instant runoff voting, there are a few things you can do. One of Tempe's state representatives, Ed Ableser, has sponsored House Bill 2305 to implement IRV across the state, so contact your state legislators or Speaker of the House Jim Weiers.

On a more local level, I've introduced legislation to move USG elections to IRV. You can talk to your college's senators and ask them to vote for SB 42. If our campus can make it work, it'll be a signal to local politicians that this idea can work and works well.

Society would benefit from this increase in debate, and we owe it to our democracy to implement instant runoff voting to help third parties become viable, to help craft policy and to improve society for all.

Collin is an undergraduate student serving as a USG Senator for the Honors College. Reach him at: collin.phillips@asu.edu.