Presidential voting reform: An open letter to Congress
A letter I sent to David Wu and Ron Wyden regarding the need for presidential voting reform.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 18 June 2004
Dear Mr. Wu / Mr. Wyden:

I am writing regarding what I feel to be one of the most important issues facing our country right now: Presidential voting reform.

The presence of Ralph Nader in the year 2000 presidential election illustrates the problem perfectly. If we make the reasonable assumption that anybody who voted for Nader would have preferred Gore over Bush, then it is clear that had Nader not run, then Gore would currently be president. We can even take a more pessimistic approach: According to one analysis I found in researching this issue, Gore would have won the election with only one-third of Nader's votes.

It seems strange to me that the presence of a third candidate should have had such a profound effect on the future of our country, especially when that candidate received a relatively small number of votes compared with the other two candidates.

Nevertheless, it is only fair to allow any interested person to run for office. Likewise, some would say that it is every citizen's right (perhaps duty) to vote for the candidate most fit for office, without regard to whether that candidate actually stands a chance of winning the election.

I have heard of an innovative "two vote" system being used in England that seems like a good solution to this problem:

Under the system, citizens places votes for a first and second choice candidate. Initially, only the first choice votes are tabulated. If one candidate has a majority of the votes (greater than 50%), that person wins the election. The second choice votes are not used.

If, however, no one person has a clear majority, then all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the second choice votes are added to the existing first choice votes. A clear winner should now be evident between the two remaining candidates.

This system allows for candidates to vote as they truly see fit, without having to worry about the practicalities and strategies of modern day politics. It also provides useful information about the true desires of the American public. By this I mean that a large number of voters may be dissatisfied with both of the two leading candidates for office, but may feel that their vote will be wasted if they vote for an alternate candidate. Under the two-vote system, candidates who win by a narrow margin will know that many people preferred another candidate and are only accepting them as a second choice.

I look forward to hearing your opinions on this issue.

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