Recently, I gave a brief presentation to the local chapter of the Green Party. I wouldn't call the following a "transcript", but it does hit the same points.
Between 1996 and 2000, the Green party increased their share of the votes in the presidential election by over 400%. But between 2000 and 2004, despite flagging support for the incumbent Republican, a lackluster Democratic challenger, and an increase in public support for the Green stance on virtually every policy issue, the Green party share of votes dropped by 96%. How is that possible?
Because Nader, and the Green party, was branded as a spoiler. When you spoil an election, your support dries up as voters go back to voting for the lesser of two evils. This is a known problem with our current plurality election method, one that economists, mathematicians, and political scientists have known about for years, and they have also known for years of alternative election methods that don't suffer from this problem. And yet, it doesn't seem to come up as something worth fixing.
Thankfully, recently, there has been some movement towards trying different election methods. Unfortunately, one often-proposed method, instant-runoff voting, which is a plank in the Green party platform, does not fix this problem. I'm here to show you some methods, called approval voting and score voting, that do fix this problem. Allow me to show you some examples.
This is a simple example with just nine voters; four vote for option 'A', and five for option 'B'. B wins. But what if we add a new option, 'C', that appeals primarily to the B-voters.
C doesn't win, but now, neither does B, so C spoiled the election. This is basically what happened in Florida in 2000. Instant-runoff voting (IRV) claims that it can fix this problem. On an instant-runoff ballot, instead of listing only one choice, you can list several choices in order. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and votes for them are re-allocated to the voter's next choice in line, and you repeat this until one candidate has a majority of votes. So, in our example, C has the fewest votes, so it's eliminated, and the votes go to the voter's second choice, which we know from before is B. B now has five votes, and wins, as they should have all along.
This looks great; it looks like IRV fixed the problem. But you still haven't won any elections. Support for a new party grows slowly over time; you don't go from zero to victory. So let's give C one more of B's votes.
Okay, now, you're doing really well; you've actually got more votes than one of the major parties. But now, we have to ask a question that we haven't answered before: what's the second choice of these last two B voters? If one of them (let's call him "Al") has A as his second choice, we get this:
Now, A wins. Remember, without C involved in the vote, B would win. But because C is here, A wins. So C is, again, a spoiler. And here you'll still lose 96% of your support in the next election.
A better option is score voting or approval voting: I'll do an example with approval since it's a bit simpler. With approval voting, instead of indicating just one candidate, you can indicate as many or as few as you want. So, those first two votes for C can come without in any way diminishing B's five votes, as can the third; and as your support continues to grow, maybe you convince some of A's voters to approve you as well, until you win. Without ever being a spoiler.
Score voting is only slightly more complicated, in that it gives you the option to explicity state a willingness to compromise, by letting you give each candidate a score in some range, such as zero to ten. So you could say, for instance, I give C my full approval at 10, but I'd be pretty satisfied with B as well, so I give it an 8.
Either way—score or approval—no spoilers, no abandonment by the electorate, and so your support can continue to grow until you actually win.
Now, what I want from you is I'd like to promote this idea to the rest of your party; your national conference is in July, perhaps something there. Also, IRV has had some pilot programs conducted, in California, Vermont, North Carolina; I'd would like to ask for your support in getting some sort of pilot program using score voting here.
Then there was a brief question-and-answer period. I was asked to reiterate the example of how a spoiler happens under IRV (the important part is that not all B-first voters will vote C-second), to speak to IRV's "success" in San Francisco (before IRV: one Green elected to council, after IRV: one Green elected to council. Change: zero), and to discuss briefly proportional representation (also a good idea.)
Overall, I thought the experience was very positive, and I will be put in touch with some local Green party members who are also voting-reform advocates. It was also recommended that I contact Ralph Nader directly.
The presentation took just five minutes, with five minutes more for questions and discussion. If you would like to give a similar presentation in your area, feel free to use everything I've said; the images are quite easy to reproduce on a chalkboard or whiteboard.