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.
Best odds yet?
I recently did a piece for Sightline on the prospects for proportional representation in British Columbia’s upcoming referendum. The takeaway was that it could pass this time, unlike in 2005 and 2009, because “spoiler voting” by BC Greens is giving the major parties a reason to want to aggregate their votes in multi-seat districts. Calvo (2009) gives the best account of how this works.
This most recent referendum is the product of a deal between the BC New Democratic and BC Green parties. The NDP minority government exists with support from three Green members of the Legislative Assembly. The Liberals are one seat shy of a majority. In the previous two referenda, the third-party vote that brought them about evaporated over the course of the 2000s.
Three things need to happen for this next referendum to pass. Each seems to be in place.