Monday, April 18, 2005

Run-off Elections

While I'm on the subject of politics, let's talk about election reform. [Looks at watch] Okay, we're forever away from the next election. Which is why I won't be drowned out by thousands of other election reform advocates! I'm not talking about new methods of counting ballots. I mean a reform of methods.

The current system lends itself not only to a two-party system, but to having the extremes of those two parties running for office. As it is, any number of people can run. But if more than two run, you run the risk of a split vote – TR might have had a third term and Bush I a second term if they had had only one opponent. This is one of the reasons third parties have a hard time surviving. Few are willing to waste their vote on a long shot, so they pick between the two highest profile candidates.

But the election itself is the last step in a long process. Each party has primaries in which members of their own party (and, depending on the state, anyone who cares to participate) vote for potential nominees. Then, they hold a convention where the final nominee is chosen. Because the candidates start out running for a party nomination, they tend to try to appeal to the extremes of their own party. Democrats lean left and Republicans lean right. Then, once a candidate is nominated, they rush back to the center in an attempt to appeal to everyone else.

I say, turn the primaries into run-offs. Let anyone from any party run in the first primary (and, while we’re at it, let’s move them all to one day – staggering the primary dates gives undue power to the first few states). Shave off the bottom third of the candidates, then have another run-off about the time the conventions would have been. Shave off the bottom third again and have another run-off if you feel like. Now take the top two and have your final election.

By having a true run-off (as opposed to an instant run-off, which would probably be too confusing for voters anyway), you still get the vetting process that primaries provide, but candidates start out running for President instead of “top ranked member” of a given party. The question becomes, however, how does the Electoral College fit in? Does it only matter in the final face off? Or do you consider it for every run-off (thus further complicating the situation)? I don’t propose getting rid of the Electoral College. It’s there for a reasons that are still relevant today (perhaps more so now that cities have become even larger and therefore more likely to dominate a popular vote). But the extremism in both parties (which, relative to other countries isn’t that extreme, but still) is frustrating at best, destructive at worst. Something needs to be done.

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