Elections, like baseball, are a simple game; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains. The rules are fairly intuitive to Americans from an early age. You’ve got your primaries, where the family engages in rousing infighting, and then the general election, where the guy or gal with the best power suit and tasteful red accessories wins. You vote for one candidate and get the hell out. The plebs always get stickers, and the senior citizens running the polls are guaranteed to be real pieces of work. It is democracy as the ancient Athenians must have imagined—only in their wildest dreams.
But could there be another way to do it? Indeed. The fact is, there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to voting. Without further ado, we present some different flavors of democracy in action.
What the heck is Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)?
Also sporting the moniker “ranked choice voting” (catchy, eh?), this mode of voting is all about "win, place, show." Voters are given a list of candidates and must pick their No. 1. Then, they go on to choose a runner-up and a second runner-up. By expressing ranked preference on a ballot, the need for a separate runoff election at a later date is eliminated.
It’s only a bit after 8 a.m. and Russell Mokhiber is shouting at a belly dancer in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Granted, it’s out of concern—it’s the kind of Washington, D.C., summer morning when it feels like the air is one giant dog’s tongue licking your body, and the lady in question, Angela Petry—a middle-aged sandy blonde with the abdominal muscles of an 18-year-old pageant queen—is his wife. She’s been dancing up a storm, a whirl of skin, red and blue silk scarves, and beads dripping from her bosom.
Lily Ledbetter—complete with sensible blond bob and an Alabama drawl—is the kind of lady who would tell a you to stop wearing peek-a-boo blouses to work and making cookies for the office because both make you look unserious. The poster girl for the 77 cents to a dollar that American women make in the workplace compared to their male counterparts, Ledbetter's not one to be trifled with. The personification of the Obama campaign’s somber economic appeal to female voters, she’s also the kind of lady who calls Mitt Romney out for not taking a stand on equal pay issues.
Though it is the crown jewel of our charming little American democracy, the right to vote hasn’t ever been a thing of glittering beauty. At its best, voting is the stuff of fluorescent-lit hallways at local middle school schools and the withering glares of geriatric poll workers. At its worst, it’s the stuff of racist poll taxes, land owner-only discrimination, and good old-fashioned sexism.
This week, as the general election campaign “ramps up” for the umpteenth time, President Barack Obama has been conspicuous about talking to the young folks of America. He’s gone where they congregate—college campuses to talk about student loans and on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to slow jam the news and stand next to “The Roots,” absorbing their cool by osmosis.