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The RoBlog
Sunday, November 28, 2004
IRV and the Washington Governor's Race
A while back I posted an entry here about Instant Runoff Voting and how I was in favor of such a system.

After this year's Presidential election results were in, I took a spin through the numbers to see if, based on the current process of using an electoral college, any states would have had their results changed if there had not been any other (e.g. Nader or the Libertarian Party) candidates on the ballot. It turns out that, from the numbers I saw at the time (from USAToday.com, I don't have the link handy currently), if you counted all of the votes for alternative candidates for the underdog in each state, nothing would have changed.

In Washington state, however, a clear example of how IRV would be useful has unfolded.

In the race for governor in Washington, the two primary candidates - Christine Gregoire (D) and Dino Rossi (R) - have been within literally a dozen or so votes of each other. This has caused two machine recounts to occur and last I heard (and it's been a few days), much discussion about lawsuits and hand recounts with the threat of hanging and pregnant chads.

The major player in all this turns out to be the Libertarian candidate Ruth Bennett. In a race where nearly 3 million votes were cast, and the difference between the leading candidates is under 100 votes, the third candidate received a tide-turning 63,416 votes, according to the Washington Secretary of State website. Assuming that the people who voted for Bennett were not split down the middle, this represents a lot of weight for the candidate who Bennett's voters favor.

Unfortunately, in the current election structure, the leanings of these individuals towards one or other of the major contestants cannot be known, and there is a good possibility (given the dead-even nature of the race at this point) that Bennett's voters will get stuck with what they consider the least acceptable candidate for the job.

If Instant Runoff Voting had been used, then the Secretary of State, having established that no party had a clear majority, would have the ability to eliminate Bennett from the race (insomuch as she has the fewest votes), and take the next favored candidate for each of the people that voted for Bennett. Most likely this would have definitively decided the race, eliminating the need for lawsuits and discussions about how a hand recount would be detrimental to the health of the state (quite the contrary, in my opinion).

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!
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