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Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

If any voters are still unsure about the benefits of Instant Run-Off Voting, the current slate of candidates for the May 5 election should put their fears to rest. Four people are running for mayor and NINE (count ’em!) for the two available seats on the council, and if we ever needed Instant Run-Off Voting, we need it now.

The way we used to handle elections was simple: Whoever got the most votes won. The problem there was that, especially in a big field, a candidate could win by one vote with a very small percentage (say 13 percent) of the total votes cast.

So we voted to change that, demanding that candidates get a substantial mandate ” in this upcoming election one needs 50 percent plus one of the votes to win. If a majority wasn’t reached, and it often was not, a run-off election would be held the following month.

Democracy is a work in progress. It didn’t take the voters (and the candidates) long to get sick and tired of the month-long run-off process, especially since it never changed the outcome of the final election.

Despite rumors, Instant Run-Off Voting has been successfully used around the United States (including two-seat elections such as our council’s), and the public decided by a huge majority to try that system.

The ballot itself is simple. Four candidates for mayor: rank them one through four; nine candidates for council, vote for your two favorites (for the two open seats) and then rank the rest. You don’t have to rank all of them ” rank as many as you want to.

Using the mayor’s race as the easiest to explain, an important thing to keep in mind is that what you are saying with your vote is “I favor candidate A for mayor, but IF, and only if, candidate A gets knocked off by coming in last, candidate B is my next choice.”

In the last mayoral race, Mick Ireland, Tim Semrau and Torre were the candidates. Torre lost and was out, Mick got more votes than Tim but neither reached the majority so, under the old run-off system, Mick and Tim campaigned for another month, another election was held to choose between the two of them, and Mick won.

Instant Run-Off Voting cuts out the extra month. If that election were held today, Torre would still be out after the first count, but the ballots that had been cast for him would be re-examined for the voters’ SECOND choice. They wanted Torre, but if he didn’t make it they had made a second choice for either Mick or Tim.

You don’t lose your first choice unless your candidate is completely out of the running, in which case (just as if you had to choose between Mick and Tim in the old run-off way) you vote your preference between the remaining two.

Of course if you wanted Torre and only Torre and wouldn’t have voted for Mick or Tim under any circumstances, you are under no obligation to rank either of them second or third, but that would be the same as, under the past system, abdicating your vote in the run-off between Mick and Tim a month later.

It works the same for the council race: Vote for your first two choices and then rate the rest of them, stopping when you don’t care anymore.

Follow directions ” don’t vote for two candidates as a third choice, or for one candidate for all choices (only one will be counted). It’s not rocket science, just make sure whatever votes that you do cast count.


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