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In Defense of Electoral Reform

Posted: March 5, 2008 6:06 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2008 5:02 a.m.
To The Editor:

Democrats worried that Ralph Nader's presidential race might tip the scale in a crucial state over to the Republican nominee come November should embrace the opportunity before them to stop it before it happens: Not by tossing epithets at Nader or preventing his candidacy, but by immediately engaging in a program of electoral reform in key states to prevent such a possibility.

One option (one that is also advocated by Nader) is runoff voting. By this scheme, which is adopted in many localities around the United States and is nearly universally used in the rest of the voting world, voters can rank candidates by preference. If their number one preference loses, their vote counts instead towards their second preference, and so on, until somebody has emerged with a majority of the total votes cast.

In this way, voters in a state like Florida who find themselves more closely aligned with Ralph Nader's political platform but would still prefer Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee could get their cake and eat it too. That voter could rank Nader No. 1 and Obama or Clinton No. 2. Then if Nader's candidacy is dropped, their vote would revert instead to Obama or Clinton, preventing the state from falling into Republican hands.

This push for electoral reform is the best option for any liberal-minded citizen who is worried about the fate of this election. In the first place, it would not require efforts that the Democratic Party has allegedly employed in the past to prevent Nader's name from appearing on the ballot - tactics which are highly questionable and extremely undemocratic.

Furthermore, it would eliminate the voters' calculus of "If I vote for the candidate I actually believe in, a candidate I strongly dislike might become president." No more "lesser of two evils."

Finally, this technique will open up the electoral field for a wider variety of political viewpoints that the American public could freely choose from, while highly reducing the likelihood that a candidate who lacks more than 50 percent of Americans' support becomes president.

Democrats should recognize the opportunity (perhaps even the necessity) to reform and democratize the American electoral system now, if not because they actually believe in the merits of such reforms, then because the risk of waiting for a spoiler is likely too high for them to take.


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