Saturday, January 10, 2009

Would a run-off be a better way?

Reforming our election system is already getting attention from the legislature and one of the ideas being pushed by members of both parties is a run-off in cases of a close result. From one of the supporters herself, Sen. Ann Rest of New Hope:

"It would be $3 or $4 million instead of $250,000, which is the cost of the current recount. But I think voters would believe that is a worthwhile expenditure to have a clear result in an extraordinary circumstance."

In other words because the recount had a few glitches we should spend anywhere from 12 to 16 times the amount of money. And what happens if the runoff is really close? Do you have a recount of the runoff?

The other question to ask is would Minnesotans even want to go back to vote again for a single race? In Georgia this year there was a huge drop-off between turnout on Election Day and turnout in the Senate runoff. This means the people who ultimately decide the race will be a different group from the people who decided all the other races.

Another runoff supporter Laura Brod had this to say:

"The voters are the ones that are looking at it, saying it's a confusing process, I don't understand why these votes were counted and these votes were not. I don't understand how a recount total can be used in one place and not in another. I think a runoff vote -- not an instant runoff vote, but a runoff vote -- would create clarity. I think it would lessen confusion in the system, and I think it's something we should very closely look at."

I don't see how a runoff creates any clarity; there is the very real possibility that the person who wins the runoff is not the person who won on election night. I don't think that's clarity and I'm not so sure that clarity is something we should aspire to. Transparency, yes. The issues she brings up are clear though, not confusing. The issue of the missing ballots in Minneapolis is unfortunate, but to then say that those votes shouldn't count is ridiculous. This is a human system so mistakes will happen and ballots will be lost and it's not the voters who should be punished because of it. Just because some people are allowing themselves to be confused doesn't mean the process is confusing.

A runoff election is a solution to something that isn't a problem, a close election. A close election will expose problems in any voting system, but that doesn't mean that the closeness of the election is the problem, the problems are the problem. The number of rejected absentee ballots are a problem. The lost ballots are a problem. The ballots that were found while looking for the lost ballots are a problem. There were certainly problems with the election and the recount, but they are all problems that can for the most part be addressed with tweaks and changes to Minnesota's existing election law.

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