2008 election fiasco is preventable

Jan Kok 7/11/2007

If New York mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg enters the presidential race, he could take votes from the most-preferred candidate and cause the second-place candidate to win. However, the Colorado legislature could prevent that by making a simple change to our voting rules.

There is widespread speculation that Bloomberg could run for president as an independent. He could finance his own campaign at a level competitive with the major parties, leading to a close three-way race. Note that it is too soon to tell whether he would take more votes from his Democratic or Republican opponent.

Suppose 60% of voters prefer major party candidate X over the other candidate Y. Now suppose Bloomberg enters the race and attracts most votes from X, so the election results are, say, 34% X, 35% Y, 31% Bloomberg. Thus, Y might win, even though 60% of the voters prefer X – a severely undemocratic result!

The problem is that our "plurality" voting system allows voters to vote for only one candidate, and forbids voters from indicating other acceptable alternatives.

There is an amazingly simple solution: Keep the same, familiar ballot format we have now. Just change the instructions from "Vote for one" to "Vote for one or more." Count all the votes. The candidate who gets the most votes wins.

With this change, most voters don't need to change their voting habits at all. They can vote for their favorite (X or Y) and be done with it. But, Bloomberg supporters can safely vote for him, AND, if they don't expect him to win, they can vote for X or Y as their backup choice. X would get votes from 60% of voters and win.

Thus, this "vote for one or more" solution eliminates the spoiler and wasted vote problems and helps assure that the most popular candidate wins.

Q: What about the "one person, one vote" principle? A: That principle means that legislative districts should have roughly equal populations in order to give people equal representation. It has nothing to do with how people vote or how ballots are counted.

Q: But isn't it unfair to let some people vote for more candidates than others? A: There is no inequity. Every voter has the same opportunity to – in effect – vote "yes" or "no" for each candidate.

Q: What if everyone just votes for one anyway? A: Then we're no worse off than we are now with the present "vote for one" rule.

Q: What if many Democrats and Republicans vote for Bloomberg as well as their favorite? A: Obviously, Bloomberg could win. If you really don't want Bloomberg to win, don't vote for him!

Q: What about other solutions? A. "Vote for one or more" is by far the simplest and cheapest solution, and thus has the best chance of being adopted in time for the extremely important November 2008 elections. Adopting this solution doesn't hinder further improvements in future years.

Conclusion: There is a substantial risk that our current voting system could make a poor choice of winner in November 2008. "Vote for one or more" greatly reduces that risk and can help assure that the most popular candidate wins. The change can be handled with existing voting equipment and procedures with very low cost (no equipment or software upgrades are needed).

To express support (or criticism) or get involved, please visit http://groups.google.com/group/COVoterChoice

Jan Kok
Cofounder of RangeVoting.org

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