Last week, the Tribune printed a “My Word” opinion piece about instant runoff voting (IRV). I’m all for sharing varied opinions on any issue, including on IRV, but I think it’s important for editors to fact check opinion pieces to make sure the opinions shared aren’t based on assumptions that are patently false.
The piece starts off with this premise:
Undemocratic “instant-runoff” voting is a giant step in the wrong direction. Can you imagine the cries of outrage across the country if millions of Republicans and tea partiers had been forced to rank-vote for the Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election?
With instant-runoff voting or ranked-choice voting, I will be forced to vote for a candidate I do not like. In the coming Oakland mayoral election, I will be forced to rank-vote Jean Quan, whom I consider to be unqualified to become mayor…
The problem is that the author, James K. Sayre, is sorely mistaken on how IRV works. As explained this a couple months ago, via a talk the County Registrar gave, IRV does not force anyone to vote for a particular candidate. Here is what the ballot would roughly look like for the mayoral election in question:
Despite what Sayre thinks, nobody is going to hold a gun to his head and force him to vote for Jean Quan. Let’s say Sayre’s first choice is Paulette Hogan. He’ll mark Hogan under the 1st Choice column. And let’s say his second choice is Don Perata – he’ll mark Perata under the 2nd Choice column. And since we know he would never vote for Jean Quan, he’ll leave the third column blank.
And what if he hates Perata and Quan? Well, he’d just mark Hogan as his first choice and leave the rest blank.
That’s the beauty of IRV – it’s extremely flexible. You can either rank your choices, or if you really can’t bring yourself to vote for any of the other candidates, you can just mark one choice, just like on the traditional ballots.
Next time, the Tribune should check the facts in the opinion pieces they print and reject pieces like this, which only serves to further confuse people about an already controversial and misunderstood issue.