Third Party and Independent Presidential Candidates: The Need for a Runoff Mechanism
29 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2016 Last revised: 6 Nov 2016
Date Written: October 30, 2016
This paper reviews the history of presidential elections, those in the nineteenth as well as the twentieth centuries, make the case that third-party candidates have determined which major-party candidate won the election far more frequently than is usually recognized. It is not just Ralph Nader in 2000, but many other instances, most especially the three-way split between Wilson, Roosevelt, and Taft in 1912. Based on this history, the paper argues that America needs some sort of runoff mechanism for presidential elections, either a second-round system like that employed by France and most other democracies with presidential (rather than parliamentary) governments, or Instant Runoff Voting. The paper then explains why and how, in the absence of a constitutional amendment, it would be feasible for each state to make its own independent determination to use Instant Runoff Voting pursuant to its authority under Article Two of the U.S. Constitution to determine the method of appointing the state's presidential electors.
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