Reform measures in November 2018

Just a short note about Election Day referenda on alternative voting systems. I have been too busy to follow developments closely. The British Columbia vote on proportional representation is interesting to watch, however. All the old arguments are coming back out, which is what you could expect here, should we ever see another PR vote in a city or state with party competition. Anyway…

MEMPHIS (TN): Population 652,236. Voters are asked to repeal a never-implemented system of instant runoff (single-winner ranked-choice) voting. Actress Jennifer Lawrence has urged a “no” vote, working with Represent.US. (She and Represent.US also campaigned for RCV’s retention in Maine.) If implemented, RCV would replace a delayed-runoff system with majority threshold. Voters adopted RCV in 2008 (71 percent in favor). The local reform group, Save IRV Memphis, notes a large drop-off in some wards between the October first round and November runoff. The group says this drop-off is correlated with poverty.

FARGO (ND): Population 122,359. Voters will decide whether to switch to approval voting. Under this rule, voters check off any candidates of which they “approve,” and winners are those with the most votes. Elections to Fargo’s city commission are at large, by plurality, in a four-seat district two districts of two seats each. Backing the measure is the Center for Election Science, recently funded by the Open Philanthropy Project. A CES poll has support at 43 percent (with 36 percent saying “don’t know”). Prof. Mark Johnson of Minnesota State Community and Technical College weighs in. If passed, this would be the first adoption of approval voting for public elections in the US.

LANE COUNTY (OR): Population 369,519. Voters will decide whether to switch to STAR (“Score Then Automatic Runoff”) voting. With STAR, voters rate candidates on a 0-5 scale. Two candidates proceed to a runoff — those with the two highest sums of scores. In the runoff, each ballot counts toward the highest-scored candidate on it. (Ballots without most-preferred candidates do not continue to the runoff — they “exhaust.”) Lane County’s five-member Board of Commissioners is elected in a non-partisan, top-two system to five numbered posts. Backing the measure are STAR Voting for Lane County and the Equal Vote Coalition. STAR was invented in 2014. Organizers secured 16,000 signatures. Alan Zundel (formerly of UNLV) weighs in.

Sorry if I missed any. Let me know by the usual channels.

The ten-way race in MA-03

Strategic voting never goes away.

On Tuesday night and into Wednesday, a crowded Democratic primary in Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District blew up my Twitter feed. There were ten declared candidates, and 52 votes now separate the top two, each of which has 21.6 percent support. Because this is Massachusetts, the winner of the primary will win the general election (unless the party splits). That person will claim a congressional district with barely more than 18,000 votes.

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Why STV was repealed

“Dance with the one that brung ya”

Grassroots wins for ranked-choice voting will be met with Beltway hot takes. One recent piece attempts to say why early use did not persist into the present. It makes some errors, which were knowable. The first conflates proportional voting with the system in the news today. The second uses PR’s history to explain the abandonment of single-winner reforms.

We do not yet know why reformed single-winner systems ended up repealed. Also, the account of proportional-voting repeal invokes some old wisdom: cities couldn’t handle all that diversity. That is not quite right. What killed proportional voting was a series of failures to honor coalition commitments, some in places with very little diversity.

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