Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fairbanks about to learn an expensive lesson once again, probably

Here's a little prediction: Luke Hopkins will win the plurality of the vote, but he won't get 40%, because of the thoroughly split conservative vote. So the borough will have to pay for a runoff. Election turnout has been pretty pathetic over the last several years, averaging less than 20% of eligible voters, but runoffs are always worse. Much worse.

So once again, because we don't do Instant Runoff Voting in this state (rather stupidly, in my opinion), we're going to have to spend a ton of money so a proportionately very few dedicated voters can determine for us who our next mayor will be. As I said in my editorial about the 2007 Fairbanks city election, this is really not a very sensible way to go about running elections. Aside from being an expensive way to do things, plurality voting -- the first-past-the-post "horse race" method of election -- is not necessarily representative of what the voters prefer—it's just representative of what they're forced to gamble on.

Instant Runoff Voting, on the other hand, improves voter turnout, is a better reflection of the electorate's actual desires, is cheaper (primary and runoff elections aren't needed), and tends to encourage civil campaigning.

It's not a perfect system, of course, but it's a damn sight better than what we're stuck with now, and it's one of the best alternatives available. I endorsed it in 2007, and I still endorse it. (Personally, however, I'd like to see proportional representation used where feasible.)

Here's a video explaining how IRV works:

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