At the Oregonian's editorial blog, The Stump, they've posted an op-ed from Blair Bobier advocating for an instant-runoff voting system.
Noting that Jeff Merkley did not win 50% of vote, Bobier writes:
That result is not at all unusual. That's because Oregon does not require a majority vote for a candidate to win an election. Candidates need to win only a plurality of the vote -- that is, more votes than any other candidate. At first blush, plurality voting might seem fair -- until you consider situations in which more people are voting for losing candidates than for a winner.
Oregonians are fortunate that a solution to this problem already exists and is, in fact, enshrined in the constitution. Article II, Section 16 of the Oregon Constitution allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Instead of voting for just one candidate, voters can indicate their first, second and third choices. If a candidate wins a majority of first-choice rankings, that candidate is elected. If, on the other hand, no candidate receives an initial majority of first-choice rankings, the candidate with the fewest first-choice rankings is eliminated from the contest and that candidate's supporters now have their votes count for their second choice. Because this election method conducts a nearly simultaneous runoff election, it's often referred to as instant-runoff voting (and is also known as preference voting or ranked-choice voting).
If used in the Smith-Merkley-Brownlow race, an instant runoff would have produced a majority winner, which would not only resolve any questions about Brownlow's effect on the outcome -- which might be argued either way -- but would have eliminated any possibility of Brownlow being seen as a "spoiler." Instant-runoff voting is politically neutral: In some races it might help elect a conservative, while in others, a liberal. Its allegiance is only to the majority will of the voters.
Unlike Measure 65, the "top two" election system that Oregonians overwhelmingly rejected at the polls this week, instant-runoff voting has a track record of success and was used most recently in Pierce County (Tacoma) in Washington to elect the county executive and other officeholders. Instant-runoff voting has broad support among political scientists and across the political spectrum, from Barack Obama to John McCain.
Because a number of Oregon municipalities use runoff elections, instant runoffs have another advantage as well: saving local government's money. By combining two elections -- a general election and a runoff -- into one, taxpayers are spared the expense of paying for a second, unnecessary election.
Read the rest. Discuss.