Alaska votes Tues. on instant runoff voting -- you can help

instantrunoff instantrunoff at
Fri, 23 Aug 2002 23:06:37 -0000

Alaska instant runoff voting election edition of
Midwest Democracy Center's electoral reform news
Compiled by Dan Johnson-Weinberger,, 312.587.7060

The Midwest Democracy Center is a non-profit, membership advocacy 
group that works to make our governments more democratic and 
representative. We partner with the D.C.-based Center for Voting and 
Democracy (

Our main goal is to revive cumulative voting for the Illinois House 
of Representatives (used from 1870 ? 1980) so that political 
minorities will have some representation. Electing three people from 
one big district instead of three people each elected from their own 
smaller district ensures that all voters have someone who represents 
their views, wherever they happen to live, and lessens the number of 
one-party fiefdoms.

Our other goal is to use instant runoff voting for single-winner 
elections (like governor) especially in primary elections to ensure 
the majority of voters gets to pick the winner. 

Our website is and our telephone number is 
312.587.7060. We encourage your participation and membership! Join 
online by clicking here:

your help needed to pass this fantastic reform

The most exciting campaign of the summer for electoral reformers is 
happening on Tuesday, August 27th, when Alaskans will vote on whether 
to implement instant runoff voting for all federal races and most 
state races. Instant runoff voting gives voters more power as it lets 
voters rank candidates (1, 2, 3) instead of just settling for one. It 
requires candidates to earn a majority of votes (50% + 1) instead of 
slipping by with 36% (like Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic 

Measure 1, as it is called, would apply to the presidential race as 
well, making Alaska the first state to use instant runoff voting to 
select their federal officeholders. This is a breakthrough campaign ? 
if we win.

If you would like to support the campaign in Alaska, the best thing 
you can do is to call 10 voters in Alaska. We will send you the names 
and telephone numbers of 10 Alaskans who are very likely to vote on 
Tuesday. You call them, follow the script that we send you, and help 
convince them to vote Yes on Measure 1. 

It's easy but crucial.

We are also phone banking from the Midwest Democracy Center (325 West 
Huron #304) on Sunday from 4 pm to 7 pm and again from 10 pm to 
midnight, Monday from 9 pm to midnight and Tuesday, the 27th, we're 
having a victory party from 10 pm to whenever the last person leaves.
If you can help phone bank, please bring a cell phone if you have one 
with free long distance. If not, just come by.

If you can not phone bank in the Chicago office, please email me at and I will send you a list of 10 names and numbers 
to call with the script.

This is the most important way we can convince people, one at a time, 
to vote for instant runoff voting. If you can spare one hour this 
weekend or Monday night (call until midnight CST, as Alaska is three 
hours behind Illinois time), please do so and call 10 voters in 
Alaska. Email me at and I will send you those names 
and numbers.

The campaign website is and we expect 
to win.

Keep your eyes peeled for a story on the Alaska campaign in USA Today 
Monday or Tuesday as well, as well as a potential story on CNN. You 
can be a part of history! Email me at to get those 
10 names and numbers right now.


Dan Johnson-Weinberger will speak about electoral reform thanks to 
the Rolling Thunder Tour's Chicago coalition 
( If you'd like to introduce a friend to 
the drive to revive cumulative voting or hear about the victory in 
Alaska, come on out. And bring a friend!

When: Wed. Aug. 28, 7:00-9:00pm (folks can arrive between 6:30 & 7:00)

Where: Healing Earth Resources, 3111 N. Ashland (S. of Belmont); 
metered street parking & in Petco lot across the street; near CTA. 

COST: $5 suggested donation (to pay for the space)

NOTE: The room holds about 50 people, so you may want to get there 


September 14th at the Illinois Municipal League annual conference in 
Chicago, we'll participate in a panel discussion on the drive to 
revive cumulative voting from 10:15 am to 11:45 am. If you can attend 
the conference, please do so. for more details. You don't 
have to be an elected official to attend, and the more people that 
can come and talk about cumulative voting, the more likely we are to 
earn more support for the cause. It would be fantastic if the 
Illinois Municipal League would endorse the drive to revive 
cumulative voting, and workshops like this one are a great way to 
begin that process.


The Illinois Leader, a conservative-oriented website on Illinois 
politics, printed a letter to the editor on the spoiler problem that 
the Libertarians and Republicans face in Illinois this year. Thanks 
to them for printing it; check it out at this link. 

I'll run the letter at the end of the newsletter as well.


How does the Midwest Democracy Center work? People invest time and 
energy into it. This summer, we were lucky to have three solid 

Mary Kennelly came in every Monday and worked primarily on research 
on the Irish voting system. They use instant runoff voting to pick 
their president and a cousin of cumulative voting (districts electing 
three to five people) to pick their legislature so political 
minorities are elected. You can see the fruits of her labor at

Brian Smith came in two or three days a week and researched same-day 
voter registration. He contacted officials from all six states that 
have same-day voter registration and soon, a great website will be 
launched that promotes the issue. Brian and Mary and both now back in 

Peter Snyder is our latest intern, and we're lucky that his college 
doesn't start until mid-September. He's the web guru who put together with Mary's content and has helped in 
many other ways as well. And he's only 18!

We are now looking for a few good interns for the fall that want to 
get to work making our government more representative and more 
democratic. If you know of any students looking for an internship, 
please send them our way. Many earn academic credit for their time 
here, and we put them to good use (a minimum of busy work). Call me 
at 312.587.7060 or email at -- we are also looking 
to speak on college campuses, so contact me and we can try to set up 
a speaking engagement.


Thanks primarily to Hannah Podlevsky, we mailed out a candidate 
survey to all 330 candidates for state office in Illinois, asking 
them a dozen questions as to which political reforms they would 

We plan to post results on our website as they come in, but if you 
know a candidate (or are a candidate), be sure to fill out the survey 
or, alternatively, we can fax or email you another copy. We'd like to 
get a high return rate and get a running start on our lobbying for 
the January 2003 session of the General Assembly, so we can actually 
pass some legislation.

Some intermediate steps in Springfield we are planning to push for 
*allowing all municipalities to use cumulative voting
*allowing all county boards to use cumulative voting
*allowing all municipalities to use instant runoff voting
*abolishing party appointment of vacancies in state or municipal 
office in favor of special elections
*allowing counties to use touch-screen voting

And, of course, we are asking state candidates if they will vote to 
put a constitutional amendment to bring back cumulative voting on the 
November 2004 ballot, as well as implement instant runoff voting for 
party primaries and the general election.

We are thinking about doing a survey of candidates for county board 
in some of the 102 counties in Illinois, asking them if they support 
using cumulative voting in their multi-member districts and if they 
support a return to cumulative voting for the state House of 
Representatives. If you are interested in helping to pull together a 
survey of the candidates in your county, please email me at or call the office at 312.587.7060.


Hold Run-Off Elections to Eliminate Spoilers

Thursday, August 15, 2002

-	Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Director, Midwest Democracy Center 

Scrappy Illinois Libertarians have survived the Republican Party's 
challenge to their 52,000+ signatures to appear on the November 
statewide ballot, after the GOP -- quite smartly, given their 
resources -- withdrew their objections last week. Almost immediately, 
cries of spoilers are heard on the right side of the aisle.

This always happens: an energetic group of mavericks, driven by ideas 
instead of patronage, works very hard to secure ballot access. And 
once they do, their ideological allies turn on them, calling them 
spoilers and repeating the mantra: a vote for the best helps to elect 
the worst.

In other words, shut up and settle for the better of two uninspiring 

This is a problem, and it is caused by our plurality voting system. 
Because there is no requirement that the winner of an election earn a 
majority of votes (50% + 1), spoilers exist. The majority of voters 
can split their vote (between Jim Ryan and Cal Skinner in Illinois, 
or Al Gore and Ralph Nader in Florida -- or for that matter, between 
Paul Vallas and Roland Burris in the Democratic primary), allowing a 
candidate to win with 40-some percent of the vote.

It's a terrible way to run an election, because new parties are great 
for democracy. They bring in new ideas and energize new voters. How 
can we encourage new parties to form and contest elections without 
the Orwellian tranformation of their votes to help their worst enemy?

Hold a runoff.

It's that easy. A runoff election if no one earns a majority of the 
ote eliminates the spoiler problem completely. If Ryan and 
Blagojavich battle it out to 49 percent each with the Libertarians 
earning the other 2 percent, it's not time to declare a winner. Knock 
off the Libertarians and have the two old parties compete for the 
majority vote. No more spoilers. Plus, all the disaffected 
conservatives and libertarian-leaning Republicans can send their 
message to the GOP machine and vote for the Libertarians in the first 
round, confident that they can elect the chastened Republican in the 

Even better, look to the Utah Republican Party and use instant runoff 
voting. That's the same process as a runoff election, but it lets 
voters indicate who their runoff vote would go to if their favorite 
candidate is eliminated -- in one election. Voters do this by ranking 
the candidates (1, 2, 3). Count the first-choice votes first. If 
someone has earned a majority of those votes, they win. If not, we 
need to hold an instant runoff. Eliminate the candidate who came in 
last, and look to the runoff votes of their supporters. 

For Libertarian voters, we can assume that most of their second-
choice votes would be the Republicans. We add those on to the first-
choice votes of the surviving candidates -- just like a runoff 
election where everyone picks between two candidates -- and see who 
has earned the majority of votes. The Utah Republicans use this at 
their state conventions, as several candidates vie for the party's 
endorsement and they want to ensure the endorsed candidate has the 
broadest amount of support -- and isn't an accidentlal winner due to 
the majority splitting their vote.

Alaska faces this GOP spoiler problem and the Republican Party there 
is doing something about it. They've placed on the August 27th 
primary ballot an initiative -- Measure 1 -- to implement instant 
runoff voting for all federal races. Faced with the Libertarian 
Party, the Alaskan Independence Party and the Republican Moderate 
Party (there is a such thing up there), the Republican Party 
enthusiastically endorsed the initiative to end spoiler elections for 

Illinois should do the same and implement this modern voting system.

Thank you for reading; please forward this newsletter!
Midwest Democracy Center
325 West Huron #304
Chicago, IL 60610