Why STV was repealed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We do not yet know why reformed single-winner systems ended up repealed.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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Painful vote counts under RCV?

Outcomes used to offset the headache.

One possible bug in ranked-choice voting is the duration of a vote count. This is especially true in the proportional representation (PR) form, since ballots may move around a lot more than in “instant-runoff voting.” Many used to suggest that painful vote counts were a cause of PR’s repeal. This claim resurfaced yesterday in a private exchange about Al Southwick’s piece on PR in Worcester, Mass. Southwick writes:

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STV is also totally compatible with polarization

On Friday, I showed NOMINATE scores for Cincinnati City Council members elected under permissive rules. Polarization was super low* for some years because, in each of those years, a lone wolf was able to play coalition kingmaker in a hung parliament.**

Now look at 1947, which is new in this plot, and watch those parties diverge. Yup. STV is totally compatible with high levels of polarization. (I never said it wasn’t.)

cincyThru1947

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