Richard Tallent’s occasional blog

An Alternative to our Broken Delegate System

We all know the primary problem with our delegate voting system–it all but eliminates the odds of a third-party win, because voters have the Sophie’s Choice of either supporting the “lesser evil” major party candidate, or voting their conscience and risking that doing so will tip the scale toward the “greater evil” candidate.

I’ve looked into alternatives such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), but they tend to be complicated, and would require both retooling of all existing manual and electronic voting systems and retraining the entire populace in how to vote.

My solution, Instant Vote Transfer (IVT), is much simpler. It works like this:

  1. Election is held in the usual way, voters choosing the best candidate.
  2. Votes are counted and delegates are assigned (geographic or proportional, doesn’t matter).
  3. Candidates with no delegates exit the race.
  4. The candidate with the fewest delegates also exits, but has the option of sending their delegates to any remaining candidate of their choice.
  5. (4) above is repeated until two candidates remain.
  6. The candidate with more delegates wins.

This entire process can be broadcast in real time. I believe it having all candidates sharing a stage while this happens would result in more solidarity and unity as a country than the current process.

Under this system, it is impossible for a third-party candidate to “spoil” an election, because their votes are not lost, they are only transferred to the next-best choice (according to that candidate). And while, at first, the end result would still likely result in wins by the centrist major parties, things get interesting as more third parties gain votes and transfer to one another rather than transferring straight to the GOP or DNC. The major parties could easily be marginalized by a virtual coalition of third parties on election night.

Another advantage of IVT is that we no longer need party primaries. There can be 10 Republican candidates, 15 Democratic candidates, etc., because, again, splitting the vote among candidates no longer spoils the party’s chances. In fact, it may *help*, because they no longer have to pick one candidate who could alienate segments of their base (as both parties have managed to do this year). Sure, too many candidates makes party messaging and funding more complicated, but we could at least see primary elections where, say, three candidates are nominated rather than one.

One other aspect of IVT I love is it could be used even in local or state elections, where you simply replace “delegates” above with “votes.”

On the off chance that there is a tie, two things would happen:

  1. First, all losing candidates who did not send their delegates have another chance to do so. So, a third-party candidate who really does hate everyone else on the stage can initially withhold their delegates out of principle, but can still suck it up and choose the lesser evil if a tiebreaker is needed.
  2. If this does not resolve the tie (or if all losing-candidate delegates were already transferred), the candidate with the fewest (but more than zero) delegates is given back their delegates. This is guaranteed to break the tie. No Supreme Court needed.

Thoughts? Comments / trackbacks welcome.


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