26 February 2004

It's the Electoral System, Stupid!

One solution is the voting method which has come to be known as Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV. Used to elect the president of Ireland, a variety of office-holders in Australia and approved by San Francisco voters for city-wide use there, Instant Runoff Voting deftly deals with multiple candidates and ensures that the winner of an election is supported by a majority of voters. It works like this: instead of voting for just one candidate, voters instead rank the candidates in order of preference. Their first choice candidate is number one, the second choice number two and so on. If any candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, that candidate has won and the election is over. If, however, no candidate receives an absolute majority of first choice votes, then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated from the race and the ballots are counted again. This 'second' round of voting, or runoff, is conducted automatically. In the second round, the ballots cast for the eliminated candidate are scanned for their second choice votes and are awarded to the remaining candidates. This process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

I suspect the republic is going to become a live issue over the next year or so. Latham and Costello are both republicans and the republic is tailor-made for either of them to cut a cotnrast with the Man of Steel.

The convention model rejected in 1999 provided for an appointed president.

I voted no and hated doing it, but the convention model was just too flawed.

Every poll since Keating first raised the issue has supported an elected president. One of the graver sillinesses of the convention model is that no-one seems to have thought about the obvious outcome - a president elected by preferential voting. The complex mechanics of how to ensure the president gets a majority of votes casually ignored a hundred years of Australian voting history.

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