Essential reading for reformers

The current PR (aka RCV) movement is very much a continuation of one that died in the 1960s. That is, this movement has come out of abeyance.

Since most of the work is concentrated in cities, here are two essential pieces of political science.

In the old days, winning PR (and ranked ballots in general) depended on political compromise — combining the desired reform with rules that other people wanted. And, as I have shown in research, this made it easy for many cities to remove PR from such “packages” on adoption.

1) Bridges, Amy and Richard Kronick. 1999. “Writing the Rules to Win the Game: The Middle-class Regimes of Municipal Reformers.” Urban Affairs Review 34 (5).

2) Trebbi, Francesco, Philippe Aghion, and Alberto Alesina. 2008. “Electoral Rules and Minority Representation in U.S. Cities.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123 (1): 325-357.

The first piece argues that reformers were successful where (a) middle-class people could be made to fear immigrants and (b) Progressive Era voting restrictions allowed the middle class to constitute a referendum majority. Note that, in this paper, PR charters are not distinguished from non-PR charters.

The second piece argues that, after voting rights were restored, reforms developed during the Progressive Era spread throughout the American South, as a way to dilute the votes of re-enfranchised persons. Needless to say, these later “reforms” did not include PR.

Some are likely shaking their heads at a piece I co-authored last week. This is partly why I wrote it. Our generation can have effects that are unforeseeable, and that we might deeply regret.

Does the Alternative Vote lead to STV?

I don’t think so. The logics of adoption are different. Yet the story of Cleveland (just below) suggests that it is possible… while rare.

AV finds favor where the majority can’t agree on the candidate it wants — but can agree on the one it doesn’t. AV is an agreement to passively form coalitions in elections. I say “passively” because the vote-transfer process does the work, likely with help from elite cues.

STV finds favor where the coalition is to be worked out actively, in a legislature. STV also preserves freedom to break the coalition between elections.

Continue reading “Does the Alternative Vote lead to STV?”

Op-ed: RCV and minority representation

I have an op-ed today in the New York Daily News. It opens:

It was a strange coalition that opposed ranked-choice voting in New York City last week: conservative Republicans and black elected officials. Even stranger was that both groups made the same sorts of arguments, claiming RCV would fuel voter confusion and depressed turnout, especially in minority communities.

Since that sort of coalition its likely to appear elsewhere, we may want to unpack its logic. Doing so means learning about two kinds of ranked-choice voting. And understanding that as long as people keep pushing the single-winner form, Republicans and voting-rights groups are likely to keep fighting it.

This was a difficult piece to write, and if you know me, you know why.

I also want to thank those people whose ideas appear at various points. If you are reading, thank you.