February 5, 2006

Republicans endorse instant runoff voting

The U.S. House Republicans used runoff voting to ensure that their leader represents the choice of a majority of those voting. The first vote they had, with four candidates, put Roy Blunt well ahead of everyone with 110 votes to John Boehner's 79. But there were also 40 votes for John Shadegg and 2 for Jim Ryun, denying Blunt a majority and forcing an immediate runoff between the two top-polling candidates. After that, Boehner won 122 to 109.

Rather than being spoilers in the simple-minded vote process of most elections in the U.S., Shadegg and Ryun's candidacies served to show the broader support for a candidate other than Blount. A runoff vote recognized that and allowed the majority to select the candidate better reflecting the majority's choice.

Instant runoff voting is a version in which voters mark their second and third choices as well as their first. When no candidate winds a majority in the first choices, then the votes for the lowest-polling candidate are removed and those voters' second-choice votes are counted instead. This is done again if a third round is needed to determine a majority choice.

While the House Republicans endorse runoff voting in their own tightknit club, both the Republican and the Democratic parties fight it for wider elections. As with their barring of other candidates from presidential debates, the two major parties are more interested in maintaining their shared monopoly on power than in engaing in the democratic process. Their worst nightmare is people being free to vote their conscience.