The bitter experience of the contested 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and more than a few conflicted results on lower ballot lines, made most progressives passionate supporters of election reform. The Democratic victories of 2006 and 2008 tempered the passions. But FairVote’s

Rob Richie

reminds us that the way we vote remains “highly problematic, with straightforward problems.”

The problems have been on display this fall. In Albuquerque’s early October mayoral election, a pair of Latino Democrats split 6 percent of the vote, allowing a white Republican to “win” with 44 percent. “In a traditional runoff or an instant runoff, the Republican almost certainly would have lost,” notes Richie. The November 3 New Jersey gubernatorial election could produce a similar result, with an independent candidate attracting enough support to deprive the winner of a majority. Then there is the case of the exceptionally low-turnout New York City municipal primary runoff in September, which saw candidates for top jobs in the largest US city nominated with support from less than 2 percent of its eligible voters.

Calls for reform are being sounded in New Mexico, New York and New Jersey, as editorial writers and reformers are embracing proposals for instant runoff voting. Under IRV, voters rank candidates; if no one secures a majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and his or her votes are redistributed until a majority winner is identified. San Francisco and Burlington, Vermont, already have IRV systems; Minneapolis joins them this fall. If voters in St. Paul and Lowell, Massachusetts, back IRV referendums in November, those cities will implement similar systems. Minnesota State Senator

Mee Moua

, one of the first members of the Hmong community elected to office in the United States and a big backer of IRV in St. Paul, notes the reform’s potential to expand turnout, empower minorities and foster majority rule. “The effects of IRV are huge, and I believe it is one of the best changes in our voting system since the Voting Rights Act of 1964.”   JOHN NICHOLS


A nascent international climate-justice movement gained significant momentum on October 24, when reportedly hundreds of thousands of people gathered in 181 countries, calling attention to the urgency of reducing the emissions that are causing global warming. Organizers from


, which coordinated the

International Day of Climate Action

, are calling it the most widespread one-day political protest in history. More than 5,000 events occurred throughout the day on every continent, including Antarctica.

Author and 350.org co-founder

Bill McKibben

told The Nation: “350 ppm is what scientists say is the safest amount of carbon in the atmosphere for sustaining human existence. The odd thing about the day was that it was centered around an obscure data point–not around celebrities or politicians but around understanding the scientific significance of 350 and taking action.”

The protests occurred just forty-four days before representatives from 192 nations, various UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations will meet in Copenhagen to negotiate a climate agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Ninety-four countries, as well as the head of the UN’s

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

, have endorsed the goal of bringing atmospheric carbon levels down from their current level of nearly 390 ppm to 350 ppm. Yet the world’s greatest carbon emitters, like the United States and China, remain resistant to any binding cuts.

“Clearly Copenhagen is not going to produce an agreement that the science demands,” says McKibben. “But we need to make sure that we push the issue. We need to do movement-building.”   ROB ESHELMAN


Clarence Kailin

, who died on October 25 at 95 in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, was one of the last of the remarkable American radicals who fought “the good fight” against Spanish fascism as a member of the

Abraham Lincoln Brigade

. Kailin lived long enough to hear blowhards like

Sarah Palin


Glenn Beck

conflate socialism and fascism in their attacks on President Obama. Kailin, a lifelong socialist, recalled earlier this year, “I’m old enough to remember when Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were on the rise. When no one else would take on the fascists, when the conservatives were talking about what a great guy Franco was, we socialists went to Spain to try and stop him.”   JOHN NICHOLS