Thursday, October 29, 2009

San Francisco Instant runoff voting 2009 Most Boring Election Ever - incumbents always re-elected

Greg Dewar, a writer and consultant for Greens and Dems says this year's muni election is "Most Boring Election Ever."

Just In Case You Were Wondering....Some Ideas on How To Vote on 11/3

... So there's an election going on next Tuesday, but I think this off-year must have set a record for Most Boring Election Ever.
Fun with the Waste of Time That Is IRV This Year

Remember how we were told that voting for so-called "instant runoff voting" was going to usher in this big future where under-funded candidates could be freer to challenge The System and all that?

Yeah, I know. Worked out well so far, right (insert sarcasm tag here).

The problem this year is that we have two incumbents, each running unopposed this year. This is nothing new - three years ago I wrote about this very same phenomenon and offered up then what I'm offering now - Fun With IRV Ballots.

I mean, the city went to all the trouble to print "IRV style" ballots, the least we can do is use them. So, while we all like ya, Mr. Herrera and Mr. Cisneros, and you did get my vote, I decided to enter in a few names for 1st and 2nd who will most assuredly lose. This year I used the names of favorite TV characters:

For City Attorney:

1. Don Draper
2. Bert Cooper
3. Dennis Herrera (Winner!)

For Treasurer

1. Hank Moody
2. Greg House
3. Jose Cisneros (Winner!)

Fill out your ballot with your own favorite characters. If all of this seems silly, well it is. So is the fact that all the promises made about IRV never came true. We're left with paying for an expensive system that hasn't lived up to its promises. If someone is a lame nobody running for office, they still lose. Just because we played games to fit the needs of a handful of ideologues whose true agenda has yet to be revealed, doesn't mean anything is different.

Incumbents are always re-elected, and the candidates who have the most support always win. It's even easier when no one bothers to run against them! So have fun. Besides, Don Draper is cool.

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Roberts Rules DOES NOT recommend Instant Runoff Voting. Period. What they recommend is not IRV as implemented everywhere, nor as proposed by FairVote. There is a crucial difference, and that difference is relevant.

What Robert's rules "describes" (not "recommends") is not what is described as Instant Runoff Voting. It is similar, but different, in an important way that points out how the claim that IRV always elects a majority winner is a tautology. It*creates* a "majority winner" in some cases by discarding ballots, by excluding them from the majority.

From the list of election-methods FairVote on Robert's Rules of Order and IRV
Abd ul-Rahman LomaxSat, 20 Dec 2008

Robert's Rules are pretty clear: avoid making decisions, including elections, without a majority vote, and they don't fall into the trap of thinking that one gets a majority by excluding ballots without a vote for the top two.
But what they describe as "preferential voting," while the rules are single transferable vote, do *not* elect by plurality, they merely make it easier to find a majority, and they suggest that voters be made aware that if they do not rank enough candidates, the election might fail to find a majority "and must be repeated."

FairVote has radically misrepresented this section of RRONR, and that misrepresentation has been taken up and repeated by election officials in places which have implemented IRV or RCV. The method described in RRONR is indeed "better than election by plurality," but what is being implemented is, in some of the applications, no better than plurality: it *is* plurality, almost always. That's with nonpartisan elections. There are subtle but crucial differences between what RRONR describes and what is being implemented: the most important is that election by plurality is allowed, and the dirty little secret is that IRV usually, with nonpartisan elections, where full ranking is not obligatory, does not find a majority if one did not exist in the first round; further, it only rarely -- no examples so far in the U.S. with nonpartisan elections! -- finds any winner other than the first round leader.

In other words, with all the jurisdictions that have implemented IRV, with nonpartisan elections, no results have been shifted from what Plurality would have obtained. But results almost certainly *have* shifted: most of these jurisdictions were ones that required a runoff election if a majority wasn't found, and runoff elections, depending on rules, do find a real majority, at least in some senses, and even when the method is open to write-in votes, majorities are normal.

IRV is replacing top-two runoff, not Plurality, usually, so the comparison with Plurality is a false one. And top-two runoff, while certainly not perfect, is different from IRV in a number of important ways. Regardless of theory, it seems that about one out of three TTR elections results in a "comeback" where the first round leader loses to the runner-up. Since IRV is not presenting us with these, in nonpartisan elections, we can be fairly sure that IRV is changing results from TTR (better) to Plurality (worse).

FairVote, in describing or giving examples of how IRV works, focuses on *partisan* elections, where vote transfers follow some relatively predictable pattern. Not as strong a pattern as they or voting systems theorists often predict, but still strong enough to shift results. So the Green candidate is eliminated and *some* of the votes go to the Democrat. Not all. Usually, it turns out, there are enough exhausted ballots that a majority still is not found. IRV is a form of election by plurality, merely a slightly more sophisticated one that can *sometimes* fix the spoiler effect.

And who benefits from that? Mostly the major parties, which is why IRV, where it is significantly used, is associated with strong two-party systems. What voting system is associated with multiparty systems? ...

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Vote NO St Paul- Instant Runoff Voting is "More complicated, confusing and expensive"

"IRV is a damaging and expensive solution in search of a problem. Vote 'no' on Nov. 3." An Op Ed by two local DFL activists and two St Paul Minnesota City Council members urges St Paul voters to vote "no" on instant runoff voting, this November 3. The group asks St. Paul voters to learn from the experiences of others who have tried IRV and found it flawed. Statistics show that instant runoff voting tends to disenfranchise vulnerable segments of the population and that the IRV's formula prevents some voters from participating in the final "runoff".

More complicated, confusing and expensive
By Chuck Repke, Angie Kline, Kathy Lantry and Dave Thune
Pioneer Press 10/28/2009

St. Paul voters should vote 'NO' on IRV if they care about having transparent, timely, and cost-effective city elections.

IRV doesn't deliver on what it promises — and will result in confused voters, lengthy waits for election results, and added expense for St. Paul taxpayers. IRV may seem like a new idea, but it has been tried in other places, and we can learn from their experiences.

Problems from complicating the ballot have been documented in IRV elections. In Cary, N.C., 22 percent of the voters polled admitted to not understanding IRV. In Pierce County, Washington, 63 percent of 91,000 voters indicated that they did not like using IRV. Several studies by San Francisco State University on San Francisco's Ranked Choice Voting indicate that older voters, those with English as a second language, and those with less income and education were less likely to understand IRV.

Statistically, the voters who don't fill in second choices are disproportionately senior, low income and from communities of color. IRV advocates say it is a voter's "choice" to not make a second selection when using IRV. We take issue with the complexity of a voting process when the voters "choosing" not to take full advantage and less likely to understand the system are voters who come disproportionately from these communities.

If the perceived benefit of IRV is to have a winner with the majority of votes, our current election system already does that. In IRV, votes are counted in rounds. The candidate with the smallest number of votes each round is dropped and his/her voters' second choices are redistributed to other candidates. In practice, about 15 percent of voters make no second choice, so there are fewer ballots counted each round. In 10 of 11 IRV contests in San Francisco, the winner did not receive the votes of a majority of those who voted that day, only a majority of the votes still being counted.

IRV will cost St. Paul taxpayers more. Because, by the terms of what we're voting on next week, IRV can be used only in municipal elections for mayor and city council, it will still be necessary to conduct school board primaries during the same year that we have mayor or city council races. Voter turnout for school board primaries will be abysmal. The city will need to prepare two different ballots in November for two separate elections.

St. Paul will also lose the economies of scale that are possible by using the same equipment and voting method used throughout Ramsey County. To date, there is no certified voting equipment to handle the tabulations required in IRV. This means for any election where there is not a winner with 51 percent of the vote on a first run-through, hand counting will be required — at an approximate cost of $10,000 per day in a typical mayoral election. Minneapolis predicts it will take extra staff, hand-counting ballots, six days a week, to be able to announce their results by Dec. 22nd.

IRV makes it impossible to have an informed electorate without candidates spending big money to convey their messages. This year's mayoral races are excellent examples. In St. Paul, because we had a primary, there are just two mayoral candidates with access to free media, and both have been highlighted in articles and editorials. In Minneapolis, where they are using IRV, there have been no mayoral debates and little access to the press for the 10 new candidates. With limited press coverage and no excitement, this year may set a record for low turnout in Minneapolis. San Francisco voters had a similar experience in their last IRV mayoral election when voter turnout dropped by 9 percent from their standard mayoral election in 2003. Takoma Park, Maryland, has seen its voter turnout using IRV drop to the lowest level in 12 years.

For these reasons, three of four cities that began using IRV in the last two years are considering repeal. Cary has dropped IRV, and Aspen, Colo., and Tacoma, Wash., have repeals on the ballot. Tacoma's repeal language reads "...the cost of running the IRV portion of the 2008 General Election was $1,692,663; and...the IRV portion ... proved to be expensive, complicated and confusing and the results ... were not available for weeks following the election..." That's a strong rebuke from the same elected officials who agreed to spend $1.6 million to implement IRV the previous year.

St. Paul voters should learn from others' mistakes and not switch to an expensive,
complicated and confusing election system. Free, fair elections are the hallmark of democracy and every voter deserves to be treated equally. Using IRV is far too likely to confuse and inhibit voting. IRV's voting system will leave too many voters without a vote in the final "round" of voting. Taxpayers will pay more to wait weeks for results. It seems to us like IRV is a damaging and expensive solution in search of a problem. Vote "no" on Nov. 3.

Angie Kline and Chuck Repke are local DFL activists and co-chairs of the No Bad Ballot committee, which opposes IRV. Kathy Lantry and Dave Thune are members of the St. Paul City Council. Lantry is council president.

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