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A Prescription for the "Lesser of Two Evils" Election Malaise

Is There An Other Way?

By Gus diZerega

The Verdict of the People, by George Caleb Bingham, 1855
Scanned image form The Artists' America, 1974 American Heritage Publishing
New York, New York

If the same legal standards of monopoly were applied to the Republican and Democratic parties that were used in the government's case against Microsoft, we would see the anti-trust suit of the century. When the Supreme Court's ruling struck down California's open primaries, they return us to a political reality that, in the private sphere, would have long since led to antitrust action. California's two major parties have made it almost impossible for voters to have other attractive electoral choices. In California and many other states, there is an easy alternative open to us.

In elections today, the candidate receiving the most votes wins. This is true even if that person falls well short of a majority. This is called a plurality election as distinguished from a majority election, where the winner must gain a majority of votes cast.

The difference between plurality and majority elections seems small, but has big consequences. Its most important impact is that it makes realistic third party campaigns almost impossible. It also increases the power of big money and organized interests, which need dominate only two sets of primaries to obstruct popular views they oppose.

Today, many who would prefer a third party, be it Green, Libertarian, Reform, or another, do not vote for them. They rightly understand that since a majority is not needed to win, and since third parties almost never win, if I vote for a third party, my real impact is to help the major party candidate furthest from my position. Consequently, we often vote for major candidates we dislike because the alternative is having one we dislike even more winning office.

A simple change at the state level (mostly likely an initiative) would improve this situation. Simply require a winning candidate to receive a majority of the votes cast. If no candidate receives a majority, a run off takes place between the two who received the most votes. Nor need we be afraid of run-offs.

Run-off puts us back to choosing between two parties, but with a difference. Let us say that both the Democrat and the Republican receive 40% of the total vote. A third party receives most of the rest. In the run-off both Republican and Democratic candidates will have to explicitly address issues of importance to that third party, because they need votes from its supporters to win office.

When the day comes that a majority is required, if I vote for a third party I no longer throw away my vote, or help the candidate I dislike most. With the penalty for supporting third parties removed, more people will therefore vote for third parties, and their support will increase. Eventually the state legislature will have a variety of parties representing citizens. And we may actually have parties and candidates we can vote FOR.

Majority rather than plurality elections are not the only alternative to our dreary status quo. Proportional representation in multi-member districts and weighted voting proposals might be even better. But they are unfamiliar to most USA citizens. By contrast, the case for majority election makes immediate sense. Yes, we would have some run off elections -- but ONLY when a majority of voters are not enthusiastic about any candidate.



Gus diZerega
Dept. of Politics
Maxey Hall
Whitman College,
Walla Walla, WA 99362
gusdz@sonic.net



Also see http://www.greens.org/na.html



© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.

publisher@westbynorthwest.org

webmaster@westbynorthwest.org

West by Northwest
Spencer Creek Press
PO Box 51251
Eugene OR 97405



West By Northwest



Voices of Peace, Volume V
Dr. Andreas Toupadakis' Notebook
W.H. Auden's poem September 1, 1939
Sam Smith of the Progressive Review writes Nobody Left But Us
Robert Jenson explains why extraordinary Corporate Power Is the Enemy of Our Democracy
DynCorp is Something to Watch
Norman Solomon on New Media Heights For A Remarkable Pundit, Pentagon's Silver Lining May Be Bigger Than Cloud, and Six Months Later, The Basic Tool Is Language
Patrick Morris, actor and director writing on the theatre's Hourglass Challenge
Marvelous Margaret Mead Traveling Film & Video Festival
World Choral Music
Photographer and web designer Stephen Voss
Stephanie Korschun's Insect Drawings, a class apart.
That Photo Guy,
Barbara S. Thompson's My Life chronicles a journey of courage by a real story teller, Chapter 3.
Mary Zemke of Stop Cogentrix says "Standing tall - Opposition floods the proposed Grizzly Power Plant."
Norman Maxwell writes to the Editor - a Summary of the Fire Road Preservation Struggle.
Patricia Frank tackles Spring Cleaning the Closet.
Lois Barton's Sunnyside of Spencer Butte finds the Heron Rookery.
M.G. Hudson's Spencer Creek Journal remembers Laddie and the baby goats as the war on terrorism affects Spencer Creek Valley
Ryan Ramon's Life on the 45th Parallel, Rain & Ramallah.
WxNW.org Web-Wise Links
DEN, from Defenders of Wildlife.

Archive

Early Spring 2002

Winter 2001-2002

Fall 2001 Late Summer 2001

Summer 2001

Late Spring 2001
Early Spring 2001 Winter 2000-01

Fall

2000

Late Summer
2000

Summer

2000

Spring

2000



© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.

publisher@westbynorthwest.org

webmaster@westbynorthwest.org

West by Northwest
Spencer Creek Press
PO Box 51251
Eugene OR 97405



West By Northwest



Voices of Peace, Volume V
Dr. Andreas Toupadakis' Notebook
W.H. Auden's poem September 1, 1939
Sam Smith of the Progressive Review writes Nobody Left But Us
Robert Jenson explains why extraordinary Corporate Power Is the Enemy of Our Democracy
DynCorp is Something to Watch
Norman Solomon on New Media Heights For A Remarkable Pundit, Pentagon's Silver Lining May Be Bigger Than Cloud, Six Months Later, and The Basic Tool Is Language
Patrick Morris, actor and director writing on the theatre's Hourglass Challenge
Marvelous Margaret Mead Traveling Film & Video Festival
World Choral Music
Photographer and web designer Stephen Voss
Stephanie Korschun's Insect Drawings, a class apart.
That Photo Guy,
Barbara S. Thompson's My Life chronicles a journey of courage by a real story teller, Chapter 3.
Mary Zemke of Stop Cogentrix says "Standing tall - Opposition floods the proposed Grizzly Power Plant."
Norman Maxwell writes to the Editor - a Summary of the Fire Road Preservation Struggle.
Patricia Frank tackles Spring Cleaning the Closet.
Lois Barton's Sunnyside of Spencer Butte finds the Heron Rookery.
M.G. Hudson'sSpencer Creek Journal remembers Laddie and the baby goats as the war on terrorism affects Spencer Creek Valley
Ryan Ramon's Life on the 45th Parallel, Rain & Ramallah.
WxNW.org Web-Wise Links
DEN, from Defenders of Wildlife.

Archive

Early Spring 2002

Winter 2001-2002

Fall 2001 Late Summer 2001

Summer 2001

Late Spring 2001
Early Spring 2001 Winter 2000-01

Fall

2000

Late Summer
2000

Summer

2000

Spring

2000