1. ORDINARY COMPUTER OPTICAL SCANNERS AND WRITTEN BALLOTS should replace the existing antiquated voting machines. This modern system is practical, reliable, cheap, virtually fool-proof, easily tabulated, and the voter can have their original (if allowed by state law). Voters can have more time than the 3 minutes presently allocated in NYC. INSTANT RUNNOFF VOTING is easily supported by this system and auditing is easy! This should be experimented with asap.
2. FOR BALLOT ACCESS THE ENGLISH SYSTEM is better. To get on the ballot in England all a candidate has to do is post a nominal bond. There is no signature gathering. If the candidate fails to get at least 5% of the vote in the election the bond is forfeit. The present system of signature gathering in New York has a lot of abuse. Many candidates, including judges, are forced to turn to political parties.
3. FOR THE BEST BALLOT ACCESS system use Mike Bloomberg's suggestion: "If a person has significant public support they should be on the ballot." There should be ways other than signature gathering to determine public support.
4. BALLOTS SHOULD HAVE THE CHOICE of "none of the candidates." This can be an important expression of public opinion, but can be non-binding for the election result. Optionally, if "none of the candidates " gets over 50% of the vote, there can be a new election within 30 days.
5. INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING is a superior system.
In 2001 there were 10 candidates on the ballot for New York City Mayor. Third Party candidates usually have a destructive effect in the present voting system. (A third party candidate takes away support from a similar major candidate, and the public mandate is not served.) Instant Runoff Voting assures the winning candidate will have a mandate and that public opinion will be accurately expressed. This system also saves time and money because runoff elections are not needed. There is less negative campaigning. The Olympics, the Academy Awards, the Cambridge City Council, and many others use this system. IRV is particularly needed in the NYC Democratic primaries, where there are often many candidates. Note Mark Green supports IRV (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ideas_opinions/v-pfriendly/story/303200p-259571c.html).
In this system the voter can cast votes for ALL candidates IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE (instead of just voting for one favorite candidate). A voter can vote without pressure for their first choice, knowing that their 2nd choice will count if their first choice loses. Note the voter can even have the choice of "none of the candidates".
The votes are then tabulated in the following way: (a) The candidate with the least number of first choice votes is eliminated from the contest and the voters who supported this candidate have their second choice then registered as their first choice. (b) This process is then repeated until there is a winning candidate or when one candidate reaches 50% of the vote.
One of the best websites on this subject is http://www.fairvote.org (Click on the tool bars there for Instant Runoff Voting and Voting Equipment".)
6. FOR BETTER BALLOT ACCESS (if the English system is not used) HAVE OPTIONAL INTERNET VOTING IN PRIMARIES AND BALLOT PETITIONS.
A possible key to ballot access and campaign finance reform is optional internet voting in primaries and ballot petitions. In the present system of signature gathering a candidate requires either a lot of money or the support of special interest groups to get on the ballot. Adding internet voting to primaries and ballot petitions (for previously registered voters) solves this problem and has many advantages:
(a) Because it is more convenient to vote, more of the public will participate. This reduces the effect of special interest groups.
(b) Candidates will not need a lot of money to get on the ballot and will not be dependent on an often grueling signature gathering process. In the New York City mayor's race the approximate value of signatures just to get on the ballot is $65000. Note the AVERAGE contribution to a 2001 Democratic mayoral candidate was about $1000. (see: http://www.cfb.nyc.ny.us/public_disclosure/summ_reports/summ_01.htm )
(c) The public will be better informed on the issues, since candidates will have a strong incentive to address issues on a low cost website.
(d) On a website you get the candidates' exact words. (Even good media give edited quotes.) A candidate's media connections become less crucial.
(e) You could get more better candidates.
(f) It is easy to check on some voter fraud.
(g) Note there could be an internet primary to limit the number of internet candidates on the final ballot.
There are many benefits to inclusion. If, for example, New York City had the English system for ballot access or internet voting for ballot access there would probably be a black, chinese, etc. candidate on the ballot for Mayor. This would result in less alienation and less racial tensions. More candidates could participate in a positive way (particularly if Instant Runoff Voting is used). People would be better informed and have more time to vote than the (3) minutes presently allotted in NYC.
Internet voting in the main elections is far away.
Frank Morano (political reporting, firstname.lastname@example.org) is often available to speak to groups, media, and individuals in the New York City area about the above.
Progress in many third world countries is directly related to women's education and women's right to vote. Aid to foreign countries should encourage both.