NIRVANA BASSIST NOVOSELIC PLUGS FERNDALE ELECTION REFORM MEASURE
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Ferndale, MI – September 18, 2004 – Guests at a Ferndale fundraiser in support of the city's November ballot Proposal B regarding the use of the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) method for electing the city's mayor and City Council, received a call from a celebrity supporter today. Krist Novoselic, bassist for Nirvana, one of the most influential bands in recent rock history, called from his home state of Washington to express his support for the pro-democracy measure. Novoselic told attendees, including City Councilman Scott Galloway and Oakland County Commissioner David Coulter, that Ferndale should be extremely proud to be planting the seed for a reform that he feels will greatly improve democracy in Michigan and throughout the United States. He urged local residents to get behind the measure and explained his belief that the reform can breathe new life into an election system plagued by apathy.
Since Nirvana's successful run ended with the death of singer Kurt Cobain in 1994, Novoselic has spent much of his time as a political activist. In his new book, "Of Grunge & Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy!" he describes the journey that led him from the world's biggest band of the early 1990's to an interest in politics. The book specifically highlights Novoselic's interest in election reform measures, especially Instant Runoff Voting and Full Representation. He is currently on tour to promote the book, and has also recently joined the board of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a Takoma Park, Maryland non-profit organization headed by former presidential candidate John Anderson, that is dedicated to making elections more fair.
Ferndale's City Council approved the placement of Proposal B, a charter amendment proposal, on the ballot at its August 9, 2004 meeting. If passed, it would implement IRV for both mayoral and City Council elections, pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission. Instant Runoff Voting is a simple to use, full-choice voting system whereby, when three or more candidates run for a single seat, voters are allowed to rank the candidates 1-2-3, etc. rather than simply choose their one favorite candidate. If no candidate wins a majority of votes on the first count, the last place candidate is eliminated, and then all ballots are counted again with each counting for the highest ranked candidate still in contention. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes and is declared the winner. In a multiple seat race, the process is similar, however winners would be required to obtain a quota that is determined by the number of seats up for election. For instance, if candidates are running for two seats, votes would be counted and redistributed until two candidates each have greater than 33% of the vote.
This process ensures in one election that the winner has majority support, eliminating the common problem of plurality winners elected despite a majority of voters having supported other candidates. It also eliminates the “spoiler” problem that gained national attention in the 2000 presidential election when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader 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. The “spoiler” scenario 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, and may also have played a role in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential election (where Ross Perot may have “spoiled” the election for George Bush, Sr.), as well as in Michigan's 2002 attorney general's race (where Green candidate Jerry Kaufman “spoiled” Democrat Gary Peters) and nearby Royal Oak's 2001 mayoral election where Bill Urich was elected with only 45.9% of the vote.
Instant Runoff Voting also offers many other advantages including:
Allowing candidates to run freely, allowing voters to vote freely, promoting positive campaigns, making every vote count and ensuring majority winners, IRV is a much more democratic system than the plurality system currently used in most American elections. That is why it has gained recognition throughout the country. It has been endorsed by national figures such as Senator John McCain, former Governor Howard Dean, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. It has also been endorsed by many publications all across America, including USA Today. Members of many political parties, including the Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian parties have endorsed it. Even Robert's Rules of Order declares IRV a more representative method than plurality elections. IRV is used by the Republican Party in Utah for party elections and US. Congressional nominations, as well as by the Irish to elect their president, by Australia to elect its House of Representatives and by London to choose its mayor. It will be used for city elections in San Francisco beginning this November.
- It encourages more and better candidates to run for office, by improving the tone of campaigns and removing the concern that one candidate's candidacy will hurt the campaign of a likeminded adversary and help a more disagreeable candidate to win.
- IRV ensures that voters can support the candidate they truly like the best, without concern about helping the candidate they like least. In other words, it allows voters to vote their hopes rather than their fears.
- Since voters can support a candidate who is unlikely to win, while still offering a preference on the other candidates, IRV eliminates "wasted votes", and offers a truer representation of the will of the electorate.
- Since candidates must court not only first-choice votes, but also second and third-choice votes, IRV promotes positive, broad, issue-based campaigns and reduces negative attack campaigning.
- As a result of all of these benefits, IRV may help increase voter turnout, a serious problem in Ferndale which had, for example, less than 20% voter turnout in November 2003's election.
Interested readers can learn more, endorse, volunteer or donate easily online at: http://www.firv.org
For more information on Instant Runoff Voting, visit http://www.fairvote.org/irv
For more information on Krist Novoselic and his book tour visit http://www.fairvote.org/novoselic/
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