Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

IRV for Wisconsin

2010 Sep. 9

Voice of the People
The Capital Times

Reader Paul Malischke suggests ( "Let's consolidate spring elections". This was partly in reaction to a new federal law that requires ballots to be available to overseas voters 45 days before an election. Currently, primary elections (both the non-partisan ones in the spring and the partisan ones in the fall) are too close to the following general elections to allow for results to be decided, ballots to be printed, etc. with 45 days' lead time, so something's gotta give.

Here's a better idea: Eliminate primary elections altogether!

This can be done by going to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also called preferential balloting. The idea is that ALL the candidates from ALL the parties are on a single ballot, and you rank them in the order you like them. So if your top 6 choices are Al the Democrat, Barb the Green, Charlie the Libertarian, Donna another Democrat, Ed the Independent, and Flo the Republican, but you'd eat ground glass before voting for George the Constitution Party candidate and Hilda the 2nd Republican, then you'd rank your top choices 1 thru 6 and leave George and Hilda's spaces blank.

When they get to tallying ballots, they start by counting only the #1 choice on each ballot. If someone gets a majority that way, election's over. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped off the list, and all of her or his votes are allocated to whoever showed up 2nd on those ballots. And so forth. This may sound complicated, but it's actually really easy to do with computers.

What it means is that there's no need to hold a primary ahead of time, so we'd save all the time and expense involved in addition to getting a truer picture of the voters' actual preferences. (Imagine if all those Ralph Nader voters had had a chance to list Al Gore as their 2nd choice and have their votes counted for Gore after Nader was eliminated.)

This is not some pie-in-the-sky idea. It's being used in countries around the world and in selected localities within the US. It could work in Wisconsin as well.


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