Opinionated @ CFE

Want Reform? There’s Better Ways Than the Elitist Count My Vote


Ballot BoxAs I’ve pointed out previously, Count My Vote is a bunch of elitists trying to protect their turf. Their intentional misdirection is intended to make you think that their efforts to consolidate nominating power within the Republican Party is good for you. The reality is that it limits the candidates to those of their choosing. If you really want more choices on your ballot, there’s better ways to go about it.

The primary complaint about the caucus and convention system is that some good candidates never get the chance to go before the voting public as a whole. I think that’s a fair criticism. It’s also why I oppose the attempts to marginalize candidates that don’t have deep pockets by going to direct primaries with plurality winners. It’s entirely possible to have both candidates that reflect the politically involved and those who reflect more casual voters. The problem is getting both on the ballot.

So here’s what I propose: allow candidates who fail to cinch the party nomination, either at convention or in a closed primary, the chance to remain on the ballot. A couple of possibilities are that they would either have to drop their party affiliation to do so or the ballot would need to clearly indicate who obtained the party nomination. This doesn’t require that we smash the existing nominating system, but it does give candidates a shot at bouncing back.

The odds are still good that the party nominee has the better chance, but it’s not a sure thing. Can you imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Mike Lee and Bob Bennett beat up on each other while Sam Granato watched fecklessly from the sidelines? It would also be a Good Thing(TM) to eliminate the signature requirements for independent candidates.

Of course, ballot access alone creates its own set of problems. Some candidates would probably choose to advance only to serve as a spoiler effect, an unfortunate feature of a system where a plurality vote determines the victor. Mitigating this would require some way to shake out the less-popular candidates while still allowing less-funded candidates a fair shake at victory. There’s a few options available.

One option is to use the so-called “jungle primary”. In this system, all candidates are placed on the ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to a run-off election. In districts that favor one political party over another, this can advance only members of that party to a general election. That can either be good or bad depending on your choices and perspective. It can also feature some of the worst elements of general primaries, allowing those with money and name recognition to more easily advance. This may be counter-balanced by the party nomination, but it would be hard to tell.

Another is using instant run-off voting (IRV). This requires you to rank candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the second choice until someone obtains a majority vote. This gives some decent odds to long-shot candidates by eliminating the “wasted vote” conundrum. You can vote for the best candidate while still propping up a reasonable alternative. A downside is that you often get a very crowded field of candidates.

I think a reasonable solution is combining the best features of the two. After the party nominating process, candidates who either win the nomination or run as an independent would face off in a general primary open to all voters with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election. The top four candidates would then advance to an IRV general election. The general primary could be skipped if there’s four or fewer candidates. This strikes a balance between opening up the process to more candidates, maintaining the existing party nomination system, and weeding out “novelty” candidates who really just want to have an audience to speak to.

What do you think? Would a system like this address your concerns with election reform? Or do you have a better idea? Sound off in the comments.

8 Responses to Want Reform? There’s Better Ways Than the Elitist Count My Vote

  1. Lots of ideas here, but one issue that’s going to come up, especially with extra primaries: who pays for it?

    • That’s a good question, but I think it’s a distraction. The cost of elections is a relatively small part of government operations and is one of their essential functions.

      That said, the cost of nomination can be put back on the parties themselves, including their closed primaries. We’re then back to two publicly-funded elections: the open primary and the general.

  2. Way to go Jesse. Deleting posts of anyone who disagrees with your position says a lot more about you than it does about me. What about freedom of expression and allowing all points of view to be heard? Perhaps you get uncomfortable hearing information that does not fit neatly inside the ultra conservative bubble you live in.

    Being too afraid to even discuss an issue with those of us on the Left shows you to be intellectually dishonest and a true coward. Hurry now and delete this comment too.

    • I haven’t deleted any comments. I also don’t see anything in the spam filter.

      But thanks for pulling out the jerk attitude. It says a lot more about you than it does about me.

      • My mistake. I posted on a previous blog entry that was similar to this one entitled “Count My Vote Is Elitism Wearing a Populist Jacket”. I clicked on this blog entry thinking it was the previous one and failed to see my comment.

        I commend you for having the courage to allow different points of view. I will try to not let this happen again. How would you react if you believed someone was censoring you views on an open public forum?

        • In the past, I’ve rolled my eyes, vented a little on Twitter, and moved on. But I also know that everyone can run their own playground however they want.

  3. One of my co-workers says he’s not a fan of IRV because it’s too complicated to explain to voters. His preference was to allow you to vote for all the candidates you like at equal weighting. This results in bumping crazies off the ballot while promoting moderate candidates who appeal to all voters, rather than just the prevailing attitudes in the major political parties.

    • That’s an interesting idea, though it could lend itself to its own set of problems. Without expressing an order of preference, it makes it hard to stake out a clear fallback position. What often happens in IRV systems is that intra-party challengers eventually winnow down until they all coalesce around the most viable of them. Yes, when pressed, they’d probably pick the incumbent in the general election if the challenger isn’t viable, but a system where you have to vote for that incumbent to prevent someone you like less from winning seems self-defeating.

      Am I barking up the wrong tree here?

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