Dec 4, 2010

No More Governor Sarah Palin(s)! Part 1.

(this is the first of a two part blog-entry that was first published over at Daily Kos and tries to explain better an earlier entry)

is the bottom line for a top two primary election rule. Top two primary is the election rule adopted recently by California and that was used in Washington State. In Washington, it kept the tea-party's Republican candidate off the ballot for the Senate race which helped to reelect a Democrat.

This fits with how the Republican party's recent tea-party-fuelled success was possible due to our use of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election rule, which lets a small, but highly motivated, portion of the population have too much influence on our elections. Other election rules spread out the ability to influence election outcomes to include more people. Thus, any change in our election rules would make things better. And, apparently, a top-two primary election rule "works" to help keep out extremists. But the election rule used in Washington State, which is scheduled to be used in California, could easily be improved upon to become an instant runoff election that would more reliably elect moderate candidates to statewide offices.

A "top two primary" is a two-round system. In a two-round system, you have two elections that are open to the entire voting population. The first round is a "blanket primary" in which all candidates run in the same primary regardless of party. The top two candidates advance to the general election. My approach is to first improve upon the first stage and then collapse the two stages into one election. I would improve on the first stage by having only five candidates* in it and then make voters rank their "top two" of the five. There are twenty ways to rank two of five candidates. The twenty rankings could be listed in alphabetical order on the ballot. In the first round, whether a candidate is someone's first or second choice would be ignored, all that would matter is that a candidate made it into a voter's "top two". The two candidates who are in the "top two" of the most voters would go to the second stage. In that stage, the rankings would matter if a voter ranked the two finalists. The finalist who is the first choice of the most voters is the winner.

So if I were an Independent and A and B and C were the Democrat candidates and D and E were the Republican candidates on the ballot then I could pick my favorite Republican and my favorite Democrat candidate, B and D. I would then have to decide which one I liked best, let's say I choose B. So I'd find the option on a ballot that looks something like this...(the * represents the bubbles. Voters would need to fill in one of the below twenty bubbles to select one of the possible rankings of two candidates.)

Please vote below for the ranked pair of candidates that you like best!

* 1. A, 2. B * 1. B, 2. A * 1. C, 2. A * 1. D, 2. A * 1. E, 2. A

* 1. A, 2. C * 1. B, 2. C * 1. C, 2. B * 1. D, 2. B * 1. E, 2. B

* 1. A, 2. D * 1. B, 2. D * 1. C, 2. D * 1. D, 2. C * 1. E, 2. C

* 1. A, 2. E * 1. B, 2. E * 1. C, 2. E * 1. D, 2. E * 1. E, 2. D

The third row of the second column has the * (or bubble) that I would fill in on the ballot to vote my preference.

Then, let's say that both B and D make the "top two" candidates of more voters than the other three candidates. They would then become the finalists and my vote in the second round would go to B, my first choice. If B is the first choice of more voters than D then B would win the election. If instead of 1. B, 2. D, I had voted for 1. A, 2. B then B would still be my first choice, since A is not among the finalists. Or if I had voted for 1. D, 2. B then D would be my first choice and who I would have voted for in the second round. When you have a two-stage instant runoff, the votes determine the outcome in both the first and second stages.

So if I were a tea-party enthusiast and Republican candidate E, but not D, were endorsed by Sarah Palin, I would vote for E and then D. But if E didn't get any votes from independents or moderate Democrats and D did get some votes from them that would give more moderate Republicans like D an advantage over E. So the moderate Republican, not the radically conservative Republican, would advance to the second round.

Thus, if this "top two primary" election rule were used for state-wide elections** it would tend to advance to the second round Republican and Democrat candidates with strong appeal to Independents or moderate members of the other party. And that would be enough to guarantee that we would not get anymore governor Sarah Palins elected in the United States!


* The five candidates in the first stage could be determined by incumbency or the ability to gather signatures from distinct potential voters or new voter registrations. Some public financing would be important for this stage to make sure that enough good candidates, possibly one or two third party candidates, are among the five candidates.

**I don't recommend "top two primary" election rules for non state-wide elections, where too often the "top two" would be both Democrat or both Republican.

1 comment:

DLW said...

An anonymous comment in an earlier draft of this pointed out that there is no evidence that "top two primary" elects more moderate politicians.

I believe that the failure of the tea-party's candidate to make it to the second stage in Washington State's senatorial election in 2010 is evidence that extremists with a limited base do get excluded by a "top two primary".

I also believe that part of the unreliability of most "top two primaries" stems from their use of a "first two past the post" election rule for the first stage and the poor turnouts for the primaries. If voters have to pick their "top two" candidates and the primary is folded into the general election then these problems will be removed.