Days of Change

Day 359 – Run Off

October 29, 2009
1 Comment

I continue to think of things that could keep democracy out of the dust bin of history. There’s term limits, of course. I also don’t think much about the direct election of Senators, considering the power they wield and the tendency of national parties to use them for anything but state interests. Now I’ve fallen in love with another concept, the runoff.

Runoff elections are fairly uncommon but enforce what should be a universal concept. No candidate wins an election in certain areas without winning 50% of the vote. If they don’t get the majority because of 3-4 candidates, the top two run head-to-head. Not only does this keep a loser from winning with 35% of the vote, it encourages third (and fourth, etc) party candidates.

No vote is wasted. If 3 people run and the independent “spoiler” get second place, they can now run against the “established” candidate on an equal footing. If the independent loses, the mainstream candidates will run unencumbered and the people will have had a chance to make their voice heard.

Imagine for example, if the 1992 (or 1996) presidential campaign had a runoff between Bush and Clinton. Who would have won? Was Perot really about not liking Bush or was the anti-Clinton sentiment enough for him to lose? What about 2000? That sliver of Nader support might have made a difference.

We have two major three-way races next week. If the Republicans win, it will be a blow for the third-party movement. If the Democrats win, it may be a blow for everyone. If the independents win, it will be a miracle. But then, I read Doug Hoffman was an accountant with the 1980 US Hockey team.

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