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Instant voting: How it works

As I write this, I have no idea how Tuesday’s election is going to shake out, but I’m pretty sure there will be some run-offs involved and we’ll all be rolling our eyes and thinking MUST we go through this for another thumping month?More money, more time, more ads, more debates, all for another vote that traditionally has a lower turnout than the first.We could go back to the old way – the one with the most votes wins, but we changed that to ensure that the winner had a clear majority. Another way to ensure a majority without having to go back to the voting booth (and make the candidates stump for another month) would be to have Instant Voting, a method that is growing in popularity.It is a bit complicated to explain, but I’ll take a whack at it. For further information, go to http://www.fairvote.com, which has an illustrative description using Muppets as candidates and cute little colored figures, which are beyond my capacity in this column.To keep it simple, I’ll use the example of our mayoral candidates, assigning numbers at random. Say 2,000 votes are cast. Voters rank each candidate as their first, second, third and fourth choice. One-thousand and one votes are needed to win the majority (50 percent plus 1). In the first round of voting, only the first choices are counted by computer, in the usual way.Say that of those 2,000 votes Mick gets 700, Tim gets 600, Torre gets 500 (this could be vice versa) and Bonnie gets 200.No one has the 1,001 votes to win and Bonnie, with the least number of votes, is eliminated. Now Bonnie’s 200 winning ballots are pulled out (I assume this can be done electronically) and the SECOND CHOICES on those ballots are then hand-counted and added to the remaining candidates.Say that of those voting for Bonnie as their first choice, 50 voted for Mick, 100 voted for Tim and 50 voted for Torre as their second choice. Now the score is: Mick, 750; Tim, 700 and Torre 550.Now Torre is out (or Tim, if it’s vice versa) and his all-important 550 ballots will now be recounted to determine the winner. If some people voted Bonnie 1 and Torre 2 (that ballot now being in Torre’s count), then the third choices on those ballots will be counted (this is the complicated part).If, of Torre’s 550 votes, 300 votes go to Mick and 250 go to Tim, Mick would win with a majority of 1,050 votes.It will take a longer time to count the votes, but not long at all compared to the time wasted in a run-off. I guess if there were a tie there would be a run-off, but it would be well-fought and well-deserved.Note that I didn’t tackle the eight council candidates, but it would work the same way only longer still.Anyway, it sounds like an excellent idea to me and I hope the new council gets right on it while they’re still mopping their brows and fresh from the horror.Su Lum is a longtime local who already voted and is antsy for the returns. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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