Our #1 priority: change the way our leaders are elected

August 13, 2010 10:55 pm Published by 1 Comment

Another system that has gained popularity in recent years is instant-runoff voting. It’s been implemented in many cities for city-level elections, including here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The nice thing about IRV is that you can rate multiple candidates in order of preference, which means that third-party candidates actually get a chance to win. When votes are counted, if your first choice has the fewest votes, that choice is eliminated and your vote goes to your second choice, and so on. Unfortunately, this system has some substantial flaws, and is unlikely to catch on at the scale we need.

The system that seems to eliminate most of the problems of the previously-mentioned voting systems (and others I didn’t go into) is the Condorcet method, which is actually several methods, but the Schulze method seems to be dominant. Like IRV, it lets you rate candidates based on preference, but the results are factored mathematically, to come up with the candidate most-preferred (or least-hated) by everyone. Honestly, I don’t even understand how this one works.

Whichever voting system we choose, it’s important that we do switch to a different system, even if it has flaws. Our current voting system simply isn’t working well enough, and to do nothing, even for good reasons, is to doom this country. I know that sounds over-dramatic, but without changing the way we elect our leaders, we can’t overcome our problems.

How do we switch?

Simply put, we need to bypass our elected representatives. Or at least the ones not on the side of voting reform.

Here in Minneapolis and St. Paul (and probably most other cities), IRV was approved in a referendum. And to get a referendum on the ballot, you need to start a petition and get a certain number of signatures. However, it seems that some states don’t even allow you to do that, and you have to rely on your representatives after all. In that case, it may be essential to first work to change your laws to allow referendums.

The goal here is to start small, and get voting systems changed for city-level elections. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to work your way up to state-level elections, and eventually national elections. Along the way, you’re going to need the support of a lot of forward-thinking politicians, a lot of money, and a lot of luck. It’s a strange, convoluted process, and I know very little about it. In fact, I’m hoping that I’ll get some useful comments to this post, so I can update this section with more useful information and resources on making these changes.


I know a lot of people are against making such huge changes, especially when a flawless replacement system may not be possible. But ask yourself: are you able to vote for the person you think is best for the job in major elections?

We can’t overcome our many problems without better leadership, and we can’t get better leadership without changing elections. There’s simply nothing more important for the future of this country.

Personally, I think we’re fucked.

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This post was written by Bevans

1 Comment

  • Brad Beattie says:

    The problem with vested interest occurs at the municipal level as well. I’d think it’d be necessary to partition the control of electoral reform away from those least inclined to use it. Not quite sure how to go about doing that though. You might need to start smaller.

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