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Runoff could eliminate primary

The ink is barely dry on the current primary system. Voters will cast their vote in November on a different one. And a completely new idea already looms on the horizon.

The proponents of Initiative 318 want to eliminate Washington’s primary election. Instead, they push the idea of instant runoff voting.

“It’s like when you go to the store and they are out of a certain product — then what’s your next choice?” said Jerry Cronk, who authored the initiative.

Instant runoff voting (IRV) works like this: in the general election, all of the candidates are listed. The voter ranks each candidate in the order he or she would like to see the candidate in office. If a person earns the majority of the votes, that person is the winner.

If no clear-cut winner emerges, the fun begins. Those who chose the lowest-earning candidate will have their votes distributed to their second choice candidate. This is continued until one candidate has at least 50 percent of the vote.

“In an IRV, you always have a majority vote,” Cronk said.

Proponents say one of the biggest advantages of this system is that the spoiling effect is eliminated. Democrats allege that people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 spoiled Al Gore’s chances at the White House.

“The splintering of the votes is a very very harmful situation that faces all of us,” Cronk said.

Cronk also said IRV would encourage people to vote because it allows them greater choice and the ability to vote against a candidate by ranking that person last.

“A lot of voters stay home and say, ‘I don’t like either of those guys’ so they stay home,” he said.

This initiative would not go before voters until 2005 and that is only if enough signatures are gathered to place it on the ballot. The system will be put to the test next month in San Francisco, the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to try RIV.

“It’s less complicated because people don’t have to make those terrible choices a lot of people have to make now,” Cronk said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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