Superdelegates expose super problems in voting system

Ryan Stone // Published May 8, 2008 in WillametteLive
Who's excited for the Oregon primaries? The truth is no one. No one even mentioned Oregon until 23 other voting states could not make up their minds. Easily excited media and bloggers declare that Oregon's voters MAY have an impact.

But what if Oregon voters can't decide either? And what if the three other states that have primaries even later than Oregon (Montana, South Dakota, Puerto Rico) can't choose a clear frontrunner either? What happens if August rolls around and the Democrats have no true candidate? That's where superdelegates come in and our votes go out.

Superdelegates differ from ordinary delegates in the sense that they are free to support any candidate for nomination. They are seated based on their status as current or former elected party officials or officeholders. In a race as close as Obama and Clinton's, the ability of these superdelegates to decide without any backing of actual voters can turn former party officials into king makers. We have no control over who they are, or what their qualifications are.

  The country is in need of voting reform. It's time to start over. Perhaps we should steal the voting forms that the Labour Party in the United Kingdom uses: instant-runoff voting. Here's how it works. If the candidates are George W. Bush, Al Gore or Ralph Nader, you can rate your favorite candidate number one, and give your second candidate a number two. If you don't like a candidate at all, you can leave it blank.

If a majority voted for a candidate, then the winner is chosen. Otherwise, the candidate with the lowest percentage is eliminated. After the candidate is eliminated the next vote occurs with the highest ranking of non-eliminated candidates. In other words, if your number one choice was eliminated, it would go to your number two pick.

Suddenly multiple parties become more realistic. A Green Party candidate can run unhindered by complaints of being a "spoiler." And suddenly everyone's vote counts -- even Oregon's.

Instant-runoff voting can be done via the mail, like Oregon's vote. And each state could vote for their party's candidates on the same day. Better yet, primaries wouldn't be necessary and it could give us more opportunity to learn about the candidates.