Gary Swing is the resident expert for the New Progressive Alliance on the need for election reform and wrote the below article. He has run as a third party candidate and been endorsed by the New Progressive Alliance many times.

I was asked to speak about the "Spoiler Effect" at the 8th anniversary gathering of the election reform group Best Democracy on August 20, 2023. Here's the text of my prepared commentary:
In politics, the term "spoiler" is often used to describe non-winning candidates who affect the outcome of an election by splitting the vote with a more popular candidate who might appeal to the same voters. The result is that the winning candidate is not the candidate with the broadest popular support.
The so-called spoiler effect can be used to demonstrate the inherent flaws in a voting method, such as the single member plurality voting system commonly used in the United States. The spoiler effect can also be used as a voter suppression tactic to bully or intimidate voters to not vote for their favorite candidate or party. Similarly, the spoiler argument is used as a candidate suppression tactic to pressure independent or alternative party candidates to withdraw from elections. The spoiler argument is used to justify restrictive ballot access laws, such as those sponsored by Boulder's State Senator Stephen Fenberg and supported by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold in 2019 and 2021.
The spoiler effect is a product of winner take all elections, typically in single member districts. In countries like Great Britain and Canada where more than two parties become prominent within a winner take all voting system, the spoiler effect can lead to major distortions in the share of parliamentary seats won by each party. In the United States, the spoiler effect is rare. In 2014, the Washington Post published a study of about 900 federal races in the United States with more than two candidates on the ballot from 2006 through 2012. They found that only about 1.5% of federal races could be said to have been spoiled by a candidate who didn't finish in the top two.
Two cartel parties run the government and determine the election laws. If they were seriously concerned about the spoiler effect, they could easily solve or minimize the problem by adopting better voting methods. For single winner elections, range voting or approval voting would eliminate the spoiler effect by ensuring that the candidate with the broadest support wins, whereas instant runoff voting would reduce it somewhat. 
Adopting any of these alternative winner take all voting methods would serve the interests of the two establishment parties by effectively eliminating the ability of independent and alternative party candidates to impact the outcomes of those few rare single winner elections that are competitive between the two cartel parties. 
US Presidential elections are the longest, most expensive, most absurd elections in the world.
The Electoral College and the US Senate are archaic relics of slavery. They give disproportionate representation to less populated rural, conservative states. The US Senate and the Electoral College violate the principle of equal representation. They should be abolished.
Unfortunately, the extremely difficult, convoluted process for amending the US Constitution makes it nearly impossible to fundamentally reform the federal government. Senators from states representing less than eight percent of the US population can block a Constitutional amendment. 
The so called spoiler effect is a trivial, almost imaginary issue in the United States. Focusing on the spoiler issue serves the interests of the political establishment by seeking to eliminate any potential threat to their unquestioned hold on political power. The real problem with the voting system in the United States is the lack of fair, inclusive multiparty representation in government.
Winner take all voting methods in single member districts exclude political minorities from representation in government. 
The two establishment parties hold nearly all state and federal offices in the United States.  No candidate representing a party other than the Democratic and Republican parties has been elected to Congress since 1970. The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States. The Green Party is the fourth largest. Out of 7,383 seats in state legislatures, none are held by a Green Party member. Only one is held by a Libertarian. The one Libertarian state representative in Vermont was elected as a Republican before he switched to the Libertarian Party.
If we want a political system in which everyone has fair representation in government, we need to replace winner take all voting systems in single member districts with proportional representation in multi-member districts. If we elect our legislators by Hybrid Proportional Representation with a three percent threshold for election, about 98% of the voters would be able to elect representatives of their choice. We should expect to have representatives from eight to ten parties in Congress and state legislatures, not just two.
The term "ranked choice voting" is commonly used in the United States to refer to instant runoff voting, a winner take all voting system used in single member districts. However, a variety of voting methods use ranked choice ballots. The single transferable vote uses ranked choice ballots in multi-member districts to provide proportional or semi proportional representation. 
Best Democracy proposes to elect Congress and state legislatures by Hybrid Proportional Representation, combining the single transferable vote for individual candidates with a second vote for your preferred political parties. About 80% of legislators would be elected from multi-member districts with ranked choice ballots. The remaining 20% of seats would be leveling seats elected from each political party's list of candidates. Voters rank their favorite individual candidates and also rank their favorite political parties. Overall representation would be proportional to share of the vote cast for each party. 
Currently, there are 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 7,383 seats in state legislatures. If these offices were elected by Hybrid Proportional Representation, a party with three percent of the vote should have about 13 US Representatives and 221 state legislators. Under winner take all single member district elections, such parties get no representation at all. 
Ninety five countries use some form of proportional representation to secure fair, inclusive multiparty representation in government. In the United States, we're still stuck with an archaic system that was designed in secret 236 years ago by a handful of rich white men who sought to preserve their own wealth and power. Most of them were slave holders. 
The Constitution signed by 39 of those men originally excluded about 94% of the population from the right to representation in government. Today, there are about 334 million people living in the United States under a Constitution that was designed to preserve a Slave Nation. No person living today voted to ratify that Constitution. 
As attorney Thomas Geoghegan wrote in his argument for abolishing the US Senate, "the Constitution itself is an illegal act: from the Continental Congress, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had only the narrower mandate of amending the Articles of Confederation, and the amending of the Articles was supposed to require a unanimous vote. Instead, the Framers went rogue, and drafted a whole Constitution to be adopted for thirteen states if just nine agreed. Our country has never been legitimate by any standard that would hold up in a court."   
Abolitionist Lysander Spooner correctly described the US Constitution as a "Constitution of No Authority." 
Slaveholder Thomas Jefferson wrote that "The Earth belongs to the living generation." Jefferson argued that future generations could not be bound by the dictates of their ancestors. He said a constitution should expire after one generation, which he estimated to be 19 years. 
In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.” 
“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind,” he wrote. “We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
Each generation should create its own constitution. We are about 216 years overdue to retire the Constitution of a Slave Nation and replace it with a modern system of government. 
Gary Swing, spokesperson 
Best Democracy
Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

published this page in Blog 2023-08-28 12:18:55 -0700