It has been obvious for some time that the United States voting system is far from perfect. Two presidential elections have now gone to the candidate supported by the popular vote minority because of a glitch in the Electoral College system. President George W. Bush was elected by the Supreme Court, and Miami-Dade County still has its problems – the recent Democratic primary was nearly thrown into the courts as well.
Moreover, the increase in third party candidates often means the winner of an election gets less than 50 percent of the votes. Bush was not the first president elected by a minority of the population. Former President Bill Clinton was voted into office both terms by a voter minority.
Many have suggested runoff elections for the top two candidates, but a second day of voting brings a far smaller crowd, and those who voted for a candidate not on the new ballot might stay home. Instant runoff voting is a fancy name for a simple solution: ranked ballots. A voter simply chooses a first, second and third choice on the ballot. The vote counter then picks up second or third choices as candidates are eliminated until one candidate receives a majority.
The simple solution, however, has wide-ranging benefits. The “Nader effect” will no longer sour voters wanting to show support for a third party candidate. A voter will be able to mark his first choice and then a backup. This encourages voters to truly voice their opinions rather than choose the lesser of evils. On the flip side, this means candidates will have to campaign to a wider constituency since they will need second- and third-choice votes as well. No “writing off” third party voters.
Moreover, instant runoff voting has been shown – where it has been implemented – to increase voter turnout because voters feel they have a greater voice in the democratic process.
In a democracy, the majority is supposed to rule. But when third parties are introduced into the mix, too often a candidate is elected with only a minority of the total votes. Third parties are here to stay, so new voting methods need to be considered. Many countries have tried this type of voting and some states are even beginning to implement the system
While instant runoff voting will not eliminate a possible presidential election complication because of the quirks of the antiquated Electoral College, it is an important step in improving the voting rights of every person in our country.