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"Spoilers" Take a Beating in 2006

by Nicholaus Norvell // Published August 14, 2006
Connecticut. Oregon. Pennsylvania. All states with big races and candidates being slandered as "spoilers."

In the Oregon gubernatorial race, independent State Sen. Ben Westlund has left the campaign trail for fear of attracting enough votes to tip the election but not win. Across the country, in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, senatorial races are turning nasty. The high-profile Lamont-Lieberman-Schlesinger race begs the question: who is the "spoiler?" Lieberman, because he is running as an independent? Or the Republican candidate Schlesinger? He's currently polling far behind both his competitors.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli is facing intense scrutiny of his ballot-qualification signatures and accusations of receiving significant aid by the state Republican Party.

Who loses in these situations? The candidates? Sure. But even moreso: the voters! Voter choices are being severely limited. Candidates are dropping out, others are facing legal challenges.

In Massachusetts, voters will decide in November if they'd like to see fusion voting, whereby parties can cross-endorse candidates (a cornerstone of New York state politics). Fusion voting would have candidates listed on a ballot with however many parties nominated them. It is suggested as a way to eliminate "spoilers" and measure support for smaller parties.

There is, however, no substitution for the real thing: Instant Runoff Voting. Voters and candidates win with ranked voting. Here are some things to do so that no more candidates are forced off ballots or asked to sit out of an election: -Learn more about IRV -Find out how to advocate for IRV in your community -Donate to an IRV Hot Spot for the November election

And keep an eye out: the race for governor in Texas is looking mighty crowded with four candidates polling with at least 20%. 2006 may well be the Year of the "Spoiler," so spreading the word on IRV is essential now more than ever.

Nick is a FairVote summer intern from sunny San Diego, CA. He studies political theory at Wesleyan University and is writing a thesis on secret ballots and voting privacy. His favorite musician is Jason Mraz and Batman is his favorite superhero.