http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?a ... O-10-20-04Seattle Times Editorial wrote: Voting for many choices
By CHARLES REINKEN
Scripps Howard News Service
San Francisco _ which is one of America's most, well, experimental cities _ is trying a new twist on how voters choose their municipal officials. At a minimum, it's worth watching. It's called "ranked-choice voting," a less-than-useful name for an interesting concept that has been kicking around in think tanks for some time.
It works like this: San Franciscans will vote by giving their first, second and third choices for the various offices (assuming there are three or more candidates in a given race). If any candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, game over. That person is elected.
But if he or she has only a plurality, then the vote counters toss out the first-choice votes that went to the bottom-ranking candidates and re-tabulate the whole race, this time counting those voters' second- and third-place choices.
Sound complicated? It is, somewhat. The procedure could require a few days to arrive at final outcomes. But it eliminates the hassle and cost of separate runoffs. And, if the idea were to catch on and expand to major races _ perhaps, in the distant future, even to presidential contests _ it would also eliminate the "spoiler" effect. In 2000, that would have meant that backers of Ralph Nader could send their message of dissatisfaction at the ballot box, but without any prospect of skewing the ultimate outcome.
To carry the Nader example further, in 2000 he didn't come in first or second or even close in any state. So, under ranked-choice voting, in any state (read, Florida) where neither George Bush nor Al Gore had tallied an initial majority, the votes for Nader would have been set aside. Those voters' preference would then be reallocated based on second choices. It is beyond reasonable doubt that such a procedure would have made Al Gore president of the United States. You may think that would have been a desirable outcome or a bad one _ be my guest _ but it certainly would have been different.
It wouldn't always change the outcome. In 1968, for instance, George Wallace captured 46 electoral votes on an independent ticket. But reliable after-the-fact polls indicated that four-fifths of Wallace voters would have gone for Richard Nixon if Wallace hadn't been on the ballot. Either way, advantage, Nixon.
On the other hand, in 1948, a year with a powerful third-party showing, ranked-choice voting might well have ousted Harry Truman from the White House and installed Thomas Dewey. (Thomas who? See what I mean? Today, he's barely a footnote.)
Today I was talking to my Irish freind and apparently they have something very close; Proportional Representation as they call it.
It seems like third parties would have a better chance in any other type of voting senario then we see now.