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Contact by phone: Howard Ditkoff at 248-968-9995
Tom Ness at 248-336-9241

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Ferndale, MI – February 22, 2004 – In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, famed consumer activist and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was labeled a “spoiler”. Having won over 97,000 votes in Florida, a state George W. Bush won by only 537 votes, and over 22,000 votes in New Hampshire, a state Bush won by just over 7000 votes, Nader was blamed for costing Al Gore the election. The presumption is that had Nader not run, most of the voters supporting him in those states would otherwise have voted for Gore, giving Gore a clear margin of victory over Bush. Winning either of those two states would have made Gore president instead of Bush.

In past months, as Nader pondered another run for the presidency - this time as an Independent candidate - countless Democrats and progressives, fearing a repeat “spoiler” performance, vehemently discouraged him from running. Nonetheless, this morning on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Nader announced that he will in fact run for president again in 2004. His candidacy and potential “spoiler” role strike fear into the hearts of those strongly opposed to a second Bush term. However, they also bring to the forefront a crucial problem in the American election system itself, as well as an opportunity for a simple, lasting solution.

The “spoiler” term refers to the situation in which a candidate who cannot win himself gets enough votes to throw the election to another candidate who then wins with less than a 50% majority of the vote. Such plurality winners, which resulted not only from the 2000 presidential election, but also from the 1992 presidential election (where Ross Perot “spoiled the election for George Bush, Sr.), Michigan’s 2002 attorney general’s race (where Green candidate Jerry Kaufman “spoiled” Democrat Gary Peters), and countless other races, are an unnecessary result of the flawed election system used in most American elections. However, a simple solution known as Instant Runoff Voting is gaining prominence both in Michigan and around the nation.

Instant Runoff Voting is a simple-to-use, full choice voting method that allows voters to rank their choices on the ballot in order of preference, rather than choosing only their favorite candidate for each office. If no candidate has more than 50% of the first-place votes, a series of runoff elections are carried out until a majority winner is obtained. This process not only eliminates the “spoiler” problem entirely, but also encourages more candidates to run for office, promotes positive issue-based campaigns, and is likely to increase voter turnout.

In the wake of Nader’s 2000 “spoiler” role, national figures including Senator John McCain, former Gov. Howard Dean, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, members of all major and most minor political parties, and media outlets including USA Today came out in support of Instant Runoff Voting. It was passed for use in city elections in San Francisco, and will be used there this November. It is also used by Utah’s Republican Party for its party elections and U.S. Congressional nominations.

A group called Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting (F-IRV) has formed a ballot question committee in order to try to bring the system to Ferndale’s mayoral elections through a November ballot proposal. The group is endorsed by current Mayor Robert Porter, City Councilman Craig Covey, local syndicated columnist Jack Lessenberry, and others. They hope to improve Ferndale’s dismal voter turnout rate, as well as to provide another working example of this more fair and positive voting system that can be replicated throughout the state, as well as elsewhere in the country.

F-IRV represents an offshoot of a broader electoral reform group known as Michigan Focus on Reforming Elections (M-FORE). F-IRV and M-FORE members believe that Ralph Nader’s candidacy for president once again brings to the forefront the necessity of long overdue electoral reform, through Instant Runoff Voting, so that candidates are no longer discouraged from running for office, or voters discouraged from “wasting their votes” on them, on the basis of the “spoiler” problem.

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