As midterm election primary elections roll on in, one thing is becoming clear: this is the year of the Tea Party. Or, not really, right? Tea party candidates who win primaries against moderate Republicans are less likely to win in their general elections against a Democrat then that moderate Republican might have been, so the whole thing might be a Pyrrhic victory. If I were speaking to a group of Tea Party idiots, this would be a pretty fantastic opportunity for me to talk about my favorite possible election reform. Since our readers are much too smart to be involved with these dunces, all I can do is ask you to imagine “if the tables were reversed,” only the candidates involved were all a lot smarter and on your side.
In other words. Three candidates are running. One you hate (candidate C). You really like the less popular of the other two (candidate A), but would be somewhat okay with the more popular of them (candidate B). Under our present election system, you have to choose between voting for your lesser favorite candidate (B) to avoid the catastrophic result of your least favorite candidate winning. If candidate A is popular enough, he may draw enough votes away from candidate B that candidate C wins, even if candidate C is everyone’s least favorite choice. If candidates A and B are running in a primary against each other, you may still feel a pragmatic need to vote for B, if they are calculated to do better in a runoff against candidate C.
So suppose we had elections in two stages: in the first stage, you vote for anyone you want. In the second stage, the two most popular candidates run off against each other. This way, you are free to vote for candidate A in the first round, knowing you can support candidate B in the runoff if A isn’t successful. A few things now happen:
- The two political parties become less powerful, since they don’t control the primary process.
- Fringe candidates become more of a factor in the process, since they can attract votes without “stealing” votes from the “major” candidates.
- You don’t get a “split vote,” where, through the sheer coincidence of the election mechanics, someone gets elected that the majority is unhappy with.
Pretty good, right? It’s almost exactly what passed in California earlier this year. It’ll be interesting the see how it works there (if it gets through the court challenges), but maybe it’s a long-term model for what the country needs?