Executive director of FairVote, Richie said today: “The Iowa caucuses showcased two principles of voting not available to many in the U.S. despite their common use around the world: proportional representation and second choice, ‘instant runoff’ balloting.
“[In this case] proportional representation meant that the delegates were awarded relative to the number of voters supporting a candidate above the 15 percent threshold. This will be a big issue, particularly on the Republican side, as most of their primaries after Iowa are winner-take-all; this means you could have someone who is nowhere near a majority in terms of votes from citizens getting a majority of delegates on the Republican side. The Democrats have proportional representation for all of their contests.
“The Democratic side in Iowa had second-choice voting. If a candidate didn’t get 15 percent in the initial tally, their supporters got to go to their second choice. Of course some of these candidates might have done better on initial preferences if the media and prior polls hadn’t relegated them to second-tier status.
“This isn’t the case on the Republican side. This means that minor candidates on the Republican side seem to get more votes than minor candidates on the Democratic side, but at least backers of those Democrats didn’t waste their vote — they moved to their favorite viable candidate and helped them win more delegates.
“More broadly, Iowa and the early primaries highlight the need — and real opportunity — for reform of our electoral system. All states should have a chance to have a meaningful role in nominations — a reform within reach if the parties take action. All Americans should have an equal vote in general elections, something we can win by 2012 if more states pass the National Popular Vote plan — which just cleared the New Jersey legislature Thursday. All voters should have the ‘second choice’ power of instant runoff voting so that we don’t have ‘spoiled’ elections when more than two candidates run — and a dozen cities have passed instant runoff voting since 2004.”
Hill is director of the political reform program at the New America Foundation and author of the books “10 Steps to Repair American Democracy” and “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.” His latest piece is “A Better Way to Conduct Presidential Primaries.”
Hill said today: “Iowa gives us a picture of candidate strength, but we should not underestimate the 842 so-called ‘superdelegates’ that Bill Clinton is lining up for his wife.
“On Tuesday, February 5, a total of 24 states are scheduled to hold their primary elections on a single day. These states include some of our largest and most delegate-rich states, such as California, New York, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey and others. Together these two dozen states hold enough delegates to nearly decide the presidential nomination all by themselves.
“Having a single primary day with so many states should be called Super Stupid Tuesday, because it gives great advantage to those candidates with the most campaign cash and name recognition to compete in so many states simultaneously. It creates a virtual wealth primary in which new presidential faces will be quickly eliminated.”
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167