The Times on the scene of the election building on the deadline to file to run in the CA recall:
There was the 100-year-old woman from Long Beach who was sponsored by the 99-cent store chain; the busty pornographic film star; the cross-dresser in pink; the soul food restaurateur; the angry car salesman; the techno geek; the student too young for whiskers; and the structural engineer worried about earthquakes.
It’s strange how many anti-populist conservatives have had a convenient change of heart just in time to herald the recall as the epitomy of the democratic process. This election is, in many ways, the strongest case for instant run-off voting. For those who don’t know, instant run-off voting essentially allows each voter to rank their preferences among several candidates. In the first round, every voter’s vote is counted towards his/her first choice. The candidate receiving the lowest votes is eliminated, and in the second round, everyone who voted for him/her has their vote counted for their second choice. The process continues, eliminating one candidate each round and counting each voter’s vote for their preferred candidate of those remaining each round, until only two candidates remain, and the one of the two who’s preferred by the majority of the voters wins.
Let’s say, for example, that the eight candidates above are the only ones on the ballot, and my preferences are:
1st: Cross-dresser in pink
2nd: Soul food restaurateur
3rd: 100-year-old woman from Long Beach
4th: Student too young for whiskers
5th: Busty pornographic film star
6th: Structural engineer worried about earthquakes
7th: Techno geek
8th: Angry car salesman
In the first round, my vote is counted towards the cross-dresser, and the angry car salesman (apologies to any angry car salesmen who are reading this site…), who was the first preference of the fewest voters, is eliminated. In the second and third rounds, my vote is still counted for the cross-dresser, and the student too young for whiskers and the 100 year-old woman are eliminated for being the favorite (out of the remaining candidates) of the fewest voters in the second and third rounds respectively. In the fourth round, the votes that had been going to the angry car salesman (in the 1st round), the student too young for whiskers (in the 2nd), and/or the 100 year-old woman (in the 3rd), spread mostly between the structural engineer, the techno geek, and the busty pornographic film star, and the soul food restaurateur has a strong base because of his outstanding corn bread, but the cross-dresser, who automatically receives my vote as long as he’s in the race, is the preference of the fewest voters and is eliminated. In the fifth round, my vote goes automatically to the soul food restaurateur because he was my second choice, and the techno geek receives the fewest votes and is eliminated. The sixth round thus pits the soul food restaurateur, the busty pornographic film star, and the structural engineer against each other. Most of the voters whose votes had been going to the techno geek had marked the porn star as their next choice (thought it would be the structural engineer, didn’t you?), and the soul food restaurateur has a strong enough base to come in second, eliminating the structural engineer, who hopefully will continue to worry about earthquakes in some not-gubernatorial capacity. In the last round, thus, every voter’s vote is counted either towards the restaurateur or towards the porn star. Someone who rated the restaurateur 7th and the porn star 6th, for example, is now automatically voting for the porn star. In this final round, while my vote goes to the restaurateur – an unreconstructed liberal Democrat whose politics are my favorite second only to the more radical cross-dresser – more people are drawn to the, well, platform of the busty pornographic film star, and she emerges the winner of the gubernatorial race.
The advantages of this system are clear. It demonstrates the actual level of support for various candidates by allowing everyone to rank them based purely on how much they’d like to see them in office. It eliminates the fear of hurting your second – (or maybe eleventh-) choice candidate’s chances by supporting your first-choice. Unlike the California recall, instant run-off voting is a sustainable, viable measure which would increase the democracy of our republic – and, not coincidentally, rock the casbah that is the two-party system. That’s why it’s been part of the platform of the Green party for years, and is part of the platform of its candidate in the recall, Peter Camoje, who I would likely vote for first in an instant run-off election, followed by Arianna Huffington, then likely Cruz Bustamante. That’s why you don’t hear a lot about it from the Democrats – who came up with progressive reforms like the recall election and now are suing to to have it stopped – or the Republicans – who become populists overnight when it means embarassing the Democrats.