When a third of Long Islanders don't vote for President, when nearly three-fourths of Nassau County residents don't vote in county elections, we have a public crisis. What political party can truly claim victory when so many voters couldn't care less?
The recent Presidential election will reinforce in most voters minds that their vote probably doesn't count, except in Florida. This feeling is greatly reinforced by a system in which the candidate with the most votes wins, even if most voters didn't support that candidate. Permanent Democratic control of the Assembly and Republican control of the Senate shows that something other than pure majority rule is at work in New York's elections.
IRV can help. IRV might spark interest and enthusiasm in our elections again, particularly at the state and local level where voter turnout has been abysmal. IRV means "Instant Runoff Voting" and it can be adapted to every election held in this state, from town board right on up to president.
IRV requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference. The candidate who receives the fewest first-place votes is eliminated from the running, and their supporters' votes are transferred to second-place choices. This process is repeated and the field narrows as votes are reassigned, until a single candidate gets a majority of the votes.
Because even second and third choice votes count, voters love IRV because they can influence elections even if their first choice is a loser. Because candidates may need votes from their opponents' supporters, IRV elections tend to be cleaner, more issue-focused and closer to what voters think good campaigns should look like. Coalitions form, voter turnout greatly increases and true majority rule is ensured. Mandates are clearer, and third party candidates are no longer just "spoilers."
IRV has worked well in Australia and Ireland for years, and last Election Day the California cities of Oakland and San Leandro voted to adopt IRV. Alaska and Vermont will probably adopt IRV this year. Cambridge, Massachussetts has made their IRV into a festival, as locals and tourists watch the vote tallies shift (new technologies makes instant vote reporting easy).
IRV is a form of Proportional Voting, which means that representatives are seated in proportion to their support in the election. Forms of proportional voting are used by many democracies, including Great Britain and Israel, and by most Fortune 500 companies in electing directors. New York City successfully used PV to elect councilmen from 1937 to 1949. More and more people of good faith are coming to believe that IRV and PV are better ways to increase minority voting strength than divisive district gerrymandering. Once dismissed in many circles, editorial pages across America are giving their approval to PV.
IRV is probably our best choice on Long Island because it can work well with legislatures the size of a town board. The risk is minimal. If the public doesn't participate in public affairs, then all the rest is just noise anyway.