Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXVI - Issue 1 - News
Conference at Tresidder Promotes Electoral Reform in California
by Justin Diener
How well does our election system really work? That was the question asked by many of the attendees of the California Electoral Reform Conference, held on Saturday, March 03, 2001 in the Oak Room at Tresidder. Among the groups that played an active role in the conference were the California Instant-Runoff Voting Coalition and the Center for Voting and Democracy, both which support similar reforms in the electoral process.
The California Instant-Runoff Voting Coalition actively promoted an instant-runoff voting system in which voters rank each candidate for an office instead of only selecting their first choice. The ASSU adopted instant-runoff voting for the office of ASSU president earlier this year.
Juan Ros of the California Libertarian Party detailed how an instant-runoff system would work, "If no one receives a majority on the first ballot then the lowest ranked candidate is eliminated. And his or her votes are redistributed to the other candidates and that process repeats itself until you get a majority." Instant-runoff voting has the potential to be a boon for third parties in American Politics. "If I really like a third party candidate in today's system I may say that I am not going to waste my vote, but in this system (instant-runoff voting) I can say that I am first going to vote for a Libertarian or other third party candidate and then if he or she doesn't win I will vote second for a Democrat or Republican."
The keynote speaker, Jon Anderson, who ran as an independent Presidential Candidate during the 1980 election and is now head of the Center for Voting and Democracy, believes that an instant runoff voting system is the way to go, "I think that a second runoff election thirty days later is a bad idea, and I am in favor of instant runoff voting." Just as Juan Ros does, Mr. Anderson sees great potential for third parties in the implementation of an instant runoff system. "Third parties are never going to get anywhere without instant runoff voting because they will always be termed spoilers."
In addition to the interest in instant-runoff voting, the primary focus of the conference was to improve the voting process in America and eliminate the possibility of having a repeat of the controversies which clouded the year 2000 election. One of the ways suggested to eliminate this problem is to update the voting machines used in America.
Mischelle Townsend, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, detailed her experience with one of the most advanced voting machines available today. Townsend commented on her experience with the new technology. "We just completed an election on February 6th. We had about 20,000 voters in that election, our neighboring county had about 60,000 and they're on punch cards, we are on touch screens. We were completed tallying the election by nine fifteen and they completed their 60,000 by 12:30am."
As a taxpayer, Mischelle Townsend, was ashamed to learn that in an election prior to the purchase of the new voting machines she had spent close to a million dollars on printing costs for ballots only to have to destroy 14 pallets of election materials.
The touch screen technology that Riverside County now uses is highly flexible and accommodates the current one-person one-vote system but will permit an instant-runoff voting system if desired. In addition to eliminating the need to print and handle hundreds of different ballots in a number of different languages, the machines do not allow the voter to make the mistake of voting for two candidates for a particular office.
Following the 1998 Senatorial election a statewide recount was requested and conducted in Nevada. The election system in use in Clark County at the time was the predecessor to the touch screen voting system that Riverside County uses today. The results from this automated system were found to be one hundred percent accurate.
Though these changes seem to be the wave of the future, they are still being debated. The primary purpose of the conference was not only to promote awareness of changes that are needed in the electoral process, but also to push for interested individuals to help lobby for the support of their representatives. The Secretary of State, Bill Jones has endorsed the touch screen system used in Riverside County and Assembly Speaker Hertzburg has introduced legislation that would fund the upgrading of voting machines and use instant runoff voting techniques for special elections.
Page last modified on Wednesday, 01-Mar-2006 23:57:36 MST.