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For the week of Nov. 3, 1999 through Nov. 9, 1999

Failed experiment

The city of Sun Valley tried an experiment this year—and its beaker blew up.

The City Council changed the formula by which most small cities in Idaho select their leaders. It decided to force candidates for council seats to file for a specific seat. It threw out the winners-take-all system in which the candidates who receive the most votes in the nonpartisan races get the seats on the council.

This year two council seats were open. One candidate filed for one seat, while three candidates filed for the other.

Theoretically, the single candidate could have gotten one vote and won, while two of the other three could have gotten 100 to 200 votes each and lost.

The system the council adopted cheated voters. It cheated them out of healthy competition for both council seats. It cheated them because in one race, their votes were meaningless. It cheated them of democracy.

The system cheated the candidate who ran unopposed because he will never be sure if he would have won election in an open race.

The experiment failed. The system doesn’t work. The system is susceptible to behind-the-scenes manipulation. Allowed to continue, it will discourage voters, discourage candidates, and corrode city government.

The mad political scientists in Sun Valley need to go back to the formula that doesn’t dynamite democracy.

The last act of the outgoing council, or the first act of the incoming council should be to re-institute the winners-take-all formula—the one that works.


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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.