August 18 – Voting Equality

the August Council of Clubs meeting
Saturday, August 18th at 10AM
IBEW Local 465, 7444 Trade St, CA 92121 (map)

As Democratic clubs we have the opportunity to make our voting methods more equal, honest, accurate, simple and expressive.

The methods we choose to use and support could ultimately be introduced to voters across the county, which is why we need careful consideration of the alternatives.

With the success of measures K and L in the City of San Diego, and with the great work done by SEIU 221 (with the help of Dem Club members!) and The Full Voter Participation Initiative ballot measure this November, fundamental changes to election rules are upon us in San Diego County.

Already there’s talk (from Republicans on the San Diego City Council) to move away from a Primary with Top-Two run-off in the General, to a single election in November using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).



Have you ever attended a club endorsement meeting with races that went to multiple rounds of voting? And where the candidates whose supporters voted and left the meeting early were disadvantaged against those whose supporters hung around through the subsequent rounds of voting?

Instant Runoff Voting (also known as Ranked Choice Voting) removes that issue and makes the voting process more efficient. One ballot is all that’s required. The idea is that you rank your choices in order of preference, and everything works out just as if you’d been there through multiple rounds. The highest vote getter goes through each time, and the lowest vote getter is eliminated.

Sounds great, but there are issues, as the voters of Burlington, Vermont discovered in 2009 – the following year they voted to reject Ranked Choice Voting and return to a Primary and Top-two General.


Codi Vierra, South State Regional Director at California Young Democrats, talked on Ranked Choice Voting (a.k.a. Instant Runoff Voting) and her experience using it for endorsement elections.

Ranked Choice Voting Presentation (PDF)

Codi talked to the fact that clubs already do multi-round voting, and that RCV will simply do the multiple rounds on one ballot.

  • Save time
  • Save paper
  • People who have to leave early can still participate in subsequent “rounds”

Codi argued that STAR voting (see below) fails the later-no-harm test because it can help defeat a favorite candidate

  • It can help a stronger opponent reach the run-off rather than a weaker opponent
  • It can cause the favorite candidate to come in third place by total score rather than second, cutting them out of the runoff round entirely


Michael Brackney, indexer of books at Brackney Indexing Service, offered appreciative and critical remarks about RCV vs. our “Choose One” Plurality Voting system (a.k.a. “First-Past-The-Post”), and then talked about Score Voting in the form of STAR Voting (Score Then Automatic Runoff Voting) as compared to RCV.

In STAR Voting, the winner is determined in two steps. First, all the scores for all the candidates are added up. The second step is an automatic runoff between the two highest scoring candidates. In the runoff, your full vote is automatically assigned to whichever of the top two you rated higher.

Michael described how with RCV second choice votes are only counted for those voters who happen to see their first choice eliminated before their second choice – if your first choice hangs around in the count longer, your second choice is never considered by RCV.

Michael emphasized that RCV also fails the later-no-harm test to put your favorite candidate first, if your favorite candidate is not a safe candidate as you could eliminate your second candidate and cause your least favorite candidate to win.

 

 


There’s a lot more information available online at

There were a lot of good questions and suggestions as to how this could be implemented at clubs, with the wider discussion being on how clubs need to choose wisely now, as there are consequences for all San Diego elections in the future.


Michael also got everyone excited at the start of his talk on why voting systems matter when he referenced the Princeton Study, and this graph.

More infuriating is this graph for the Elites

There’s a concise explanation of these graphs on the Center for Political Studies Blog, University of Michigan – Is policy driven by the rich, or does government respond to all?

And a quick video explanation from Represent Us.

This is why we need to change our voting systems, and the place to start is at our own clubs.


Thanks to our speakers who did a great job presenting and answering a wide range of questions, and to IBEW Local 465 and Nate Fairman for hosting us.

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