As 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.