From the One American Committee supporters blog, “Argument and Analysis” OpenMic post,
3.05.2006, posted here for archival purposes
I read that John Edwards calls on the Democratic Party to present Big Ideas, and I would stand up and applaud (except that risks having someone else in the computer lab call security).
After living in Australia for a decade, my number one suggestion for a Big Idea is about the fight to restore democracy to the US of A. And the biggest step in that direction is a mandatory automatic Run-Off election in all federal elections.
Now, we all know how a run-off election works. In some places, if there are more than two people in a race, and nobody wins an absolute majority in the original election, they take the top two vote-getters and have a second, run-off election.
Think about what a run-off election for President would mean. Everybody who happens to be a passionate supporter of some smaller niche candidate would feel free to vote for their first choice, without the risk of “wasting their vote”. Imagine if the Nader supporters in Florida in 2000 had the chance to indicate who was their second choice … would Dubya even be President today? Indeed, think about tens of millions of Americans who do not vote, who might turn up to vote for the first choice if they knew that their vote would not be “wasted”.
Of course, the first reaction is, “that costs too much, and takes too much time”. But this is where my experience in Australia comes in. Here in OZ, in every Parliamentary election the voters indicate their preference for all the candidates in order. If their first preference is not in the running, the vote passes on to their second, then third, and so on.
The full Australian system would be too big a change for the US, but using the basic idea to provide an automatic run-off is extremely simple. Simply set up two votes, one for the first choice, and another for the second choice. Then if nobody gets an absolute majority, the top two stay in the race, the rest are eliminated, and the second choice votes for one of those two are added in.
Of course, if the Democrats call for an automatic run-off in all federal elections, the Republicans have to oppose it. An important Republican strategy of the past decade is focused on keeping over-all participation low so that elections can be swung by well-organized fringe groups brought in by divisive single-issue ballot initiatives. They have swung so far to the right that any general increase in turn-out and political participation will hurt their election prospects.
On the other hand, how can they run against it? After all, it is not a pro-Democrat policy. It is simply a pro-democracy policy. I feel it makes all the sense in the world for the Republicans to be publicly forced to choose between supporting democracy and supporting their own chances for political success.