I guess this is as good a time as any to hawk the virtues of Instant Runoff Voting. If things had gone a bit different in California, IRV would have really come in handy.
Out a field of 135 candidates, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the right to succeed the ousted governor with a fat plurality that was almost a majority: 49 percent of the total. There won’t be any haggling over pregnant chads. The fixers in California may actually have padded Arnold’s margin with all their last-minute Arnold-sliming. That may say more about the voters’ opinions of Davis than of Arnold, since Arnold admitted that there was some truth to the charges of sexual misconduct. But the vote totals could have gone a lot differently. Anybody who filled out the paperwork was free to run.
This was good, in that folks who might not have survived a typical primary process had a chance to make their case to voters. On the other hand, if there had been more than three or four realistic contenders in the race, the ballots could easily have been split in such a way that no clear favorite emerged. Maybe one guy with 18 percent, the runner-up with 17 percent, etc. Nobody would have been ecstatic about that outcome.
Instant Runoff Voting solves the problem by giving value to voters’ second-ranked and third-ranked choices. In each round of the voting, votes for the last-place candidate get re-assigned to the voters’ second-choice candidates. The process continues until someone gains an actual majority. Think of it as a way of terminating electoral confusion.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.