Pro-Democracy Vote Reform Passes in Vermont and San Francisco
San Francisco 1st Major City to Adopt Instant Runoff Voting; Vermonters Endorse Instant Runoffs for Statewide Offices
Ever since November 2000, a major battle has taken place in the USA, pitting True Democracy against Vote Fraud. And frankly, the government-sponsored vote fraud forces have been winning, blocking most reform efforts. However, pro-democracy voting system changes have now passed in San Francisco and Vermont. Here are some details from the Center for Voting and Democracy.
The 2002 election cycle started with a bang on March 5, with reformers winning big in ground-breaking votes on instant runoff voting in San Francisco and town meetings across Vermont. San Franciscans voted 56%-44% to adopt instant runoff voting for electing its most powerful elected leaders, despite well-funded opposition from backers of traditional "delayed" runoffs. A Vermont League of Women Voters proposal to use instant runoff voting for statewide elections swept nearly every town meeting debating the issue.
Rob Richie, director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, commented, "Even as Congress moves toward apparent passage of bills to ban soft money in campaigns and modernize the way we run elections, the thirst for a better democracy will continue. In cities and states around the nation, democracy advocates are involved in new efforts to improve our politics. Instant runoff voting is an essential component of the future of reform."
Already used for major elections in Australia, Ireland and Great Britain, instant runoff voting ensures candidates win single-seat offices with majority support. It accomplishes the goals of a traditional runoff election in one efficient round of voting. Voters indicate both their favorite and their runoff choices. If no candidate receives a winning majority of first choices, the weak candidates are eliminated. As in a traditional delayed runoff, their supporters choose among the runoff finalists according to the preferences marked on their ballots, while voters who ranked one of the finalists first continue to have their votes count for their favorite choice. It contrasts with conventional plurality elections which allow a candidate to win without majority support, and traditional runoff elections which require two separate elections.
Vermont's majority requirement for governor has thrust instant runoff voting onto the state agenda. Backers include Governor Howard Dean, Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, former New York Times columnist Tom Wicker (who addressed his local town meeting) and the Grange, while the most recent Republican candidate for governor, Ruth Dwyer, was a sponsor of instant runoff legislation when she served in the Vermont House. More than 50 town meetings debated the issue; of the 51 towns reporting results, 49 supported adoption of instant runoff voting, most by overwhelming margins.
In San Francisco, traditional "delayed" runoffs were seen as leading to low voter turnout, unnecessary and costly demands on election administrators and campaign finance abuses. Backers of instant runoff voting included California House Assembly Leader Kevin Shelley, who won the Democratic Party nomination for Secretary of State this week, and the Sierra Club, San Francisco Labor Council, Common Cause, NOW, Congress of California Seniors, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Harvey Milk Club, Latino Democratic Club, Libertarian Party, Democratic Party, Green Party and California PIRG (public interest research group).
"This is a profound reform that could greatly improve elections in San Francisco," said Doug Phelps, Chairman of the National Association of State PIRGs Board. "Voters will now be able to more accurately register their preferences on election day."
Common Cause local and state organizations played a key role in both San Francisco and Vermont. Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause, said, "Instant runoff voting is an important tool for ensuring that the will of the majority is reflected in electoral outcomes in cases when multiple candidates vie for a single seat. I was pleased to see local Common Cause leaders at the forefront of these campaigns."
Chaired by 1980 presidential candidate John B. Anderson, the Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-partisan organization that promotes fair elections.
Wholesome democracy can make America better. Instant runoff voting is a step in the right direction. What's your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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