Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Better Way To Elect a President (and Others)

Howard: Count them all, but weigh the count.
Howard Dean, the popular Democrat who was governor of Vermont and leader of the party for several years, is proposing (here) that the U.S. change the way it votes to something called "ranked choice." It works this way:

"Voters have the option to rank the candidates from first to last, and any candidate with a majority of first choices wins, just as in any other election. But if no candidate has a majority, you hold an “instant runoff” tally in order to compare the top two candidates head to head. Candidates in last place are eliminated, and their backers’ votes are counted for their next choice. When it’s down to two, the winner earns a majority of the vote."

My ballot, which has already been cast for this year, would have read like this under ranked choice: 1. Hillary Clinton 2. Jill Stein 3. Gary Johnson 4. Donald Trump. I would leave Trump off entirely, given the choice because he is not an option in my world. In any case, you can see where this would lead. And it would be representative of the public's voice.

In 2000 Florida, for example, a combination of the votes of Al Gore and the 1 percent won by Ralph Nader would have broken what was essentially a tie between Gore and George Bush. Bill Clinton never won a majority. Third party votes would have given the winner of those elections a majority, which is important, as much because of perception as anything else.

We've had 10 White House residents who did not win 50 percent of the vote: John Q. Adams, 30.5 percent; Abe Lincoln, 39.8; Woodrow Wilson, 41.9 (Teddy Roosevelt, a third party candidate and former president, was second); Bill Clinton, 42.9 in 1992 (Ross Perot got about 15 percent);  Richard Nixon, 43.4 in 1968 (George Wallace was third party); James Buchanan, 45.3; Grover Cleveland, 46.1;  Zachery Taylor, 47.4; Benjamin Harrison, 47.9; and, of course, Bush (who was appointed president by the Supreme Court) in 2000 after losing the popular vote.

Dean puts it this way: "Having more competition encourages better dialogue on issues. Civility is substantially improved. Needing to reach out to more voters leads candidates to reduce personal attacks and govern more inclusively." Civility. Yes, that quaint notion that went to sleep with Richard Nixon and died when Ronald Reagan's federal court destroyed the Fairness Doctrine, creating talk radio and Fox News.

(Photo: politico.com)

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