Instant Run-off Election

by  John Roland Stahl
February, 2008

       Many years ago I discovered the proposal of the “Instant Run-off Election” and realized immediately that it is so far out in front as a liberal or progressive political cause as to render every other cause a useless waste of time in comparison.  Until we can secure the enactment of the Instant Run-off Election proposal nation-wide (world-wide), there is just no point in attempting to accomplish anything else worthwhile.  

      I can’t believe that there is no “Movement” to make this happen.  No one speaks about it anymore — no one acts as if it even matters much any more.  The problem, of course, is that, by opening up the whole potential bonanza (“can of worms”? “Pandora’s Box”?) of third, fourth, or thirtieth political parties, it will be bitterly opposed by both major parties.  In fact, I can think of no other issue on which both Democrats and Republicans would share such a common view: a virtually unanimous opposition to any proposal which would give any other parties any meaningful participation in the politics of the nation.  The only hope for a proposal like this is to take it directly to the people via a ballot initiative, perhaps first in California, where such a process is commonly employed.

      In case I need to review the proposal, it is simply to offer voters more than one choice during elections.  Suppose you have a hypothetical choice, for example, between George Bush, Al Gore, or Ralph Nader for President?  For whom do you cast your vote?  If you are only allowed one vote, there could be a real problem — you can’t vote for Ralph Nader without risking throwing the election to George W.  So the proposal allows you to vote for not just one, but several candidates — let us say three candidates, to keep it simple, yet interesting.  You vote for first choice, second choice, and third choice; if your first choice be eliminated from the running, your vote automatically passes through to your second choice; should your second choice also fall through the cracks, your vote passes to your third choice.  This means that you could vote first for your Aunt Sally, who, you are confident, would quickly sort out the nation’s problems; your second vote could go to Ralph Nader; and your third and final stop-George vote could be cast for Al Gore.  Today’s computers would make such a voting machine perfectly simple to design and implement.  (The fact that the elections of 2008, at least so far as the election of the President is concerned, does not seem to require such a proposal — at least, not as desperately! — should not detract from the argument; just consider the example given above, or look at any of the other races at stake in the election.)

      (I just uploaded this article today, and then I read in the news that Ralph Nader is running again as an Independent!  Well, suddenly that makes my whole argument relevant again, but I still do not think Nader’s candidacy will have much effect in the coming election.  I think Ralph Nader totally lost all of his credibility by intruding his ill-advised candidacy in the critical election of 2000.  In the coming election, I don’t think very many people will be voting for poor old Ralph, who would have been better advised to employ any remaining political capital he may have left in promoting this concept of the Instant Run-off Election, instead of attempting, once again, to throw his monkey wrench into the ring.  Additionally, I hardly think the coming election will be close enough for Nader’s candidacy to make any difference.)

      The consequence of adopting this proposal, of course, would be that, if voters could vote for their real choices first, without risking disastrous political consequences, Ralph Nader might have received 30% of the vote or more — he might even have won, if people were not afraid to vote for him (and not terminally annoyed by his egregious folly of running at such an inopportune moment in time).  

      If anyone were to consider this proposal honestly, it is so brilliantly correct that no one could oppose it, and no other political cause could compare with it.  For the first time in America’s history, it would be possible for any political party, of any agenda whatsoever, to make a serious foray into electoral politics!  The possibilities for democracy are so exhilarating and exciting — it could really stem the tide, and stop the inexorable slide towards complete political constipation which threatens to destroy the flexibility and resilience of the political system.  

      But as long as the major powers retain their death-grip upon the political process, there can be no future for democracy in the USA, Leonard Cohen’s optimism to the contrary notwithstanding.

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