Sunday, January 31, 2010

Instant runoff voting decision for San Leandro - IRV lobbyist at Mayor's hotel room

The article says Instant runoff voting "may" benefit the incumbent mayor of San Leandro? Actually, its not a matter of "may" but "will". Thats because to win an IRV/RCV election, you need a) name recognition and or b) big money.

But the title of the article should be "Did Mayor Santos violate public meeting laws with IRV lobbyist?"

San Leandro's incumbent Mayor Santos had alot of help making his decision thanks to an IRV lobbyist who was in his motel room while Santos participated in a City Hall meeting via teleconference. "Santos even had New America's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol as Tuesday night's meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time. ...Santos participated in Tuesday's meeting byteleconference from Washington, D.C."

One commenter to the article notes: "But to have RCV's lobbyist at your side during the discussion - that's unheard of."

RCV May Aid Incumbent Mayor in the Fall
Santos Gets Five Extra Months to Rake in the Dough 'R' Still Comes Before 'S' Captain Save-A-Country

Supporters of Ranked Choice Voting from the left-leaning New America Foundation had the ear of both Mayor Tony Santos and Councilman Jim Prola from the beginning. Both gave passionate speeches in favor and seemed relieved by its passing Tuesday night. Santos even had New America's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol as Tuesday night's meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time.
CLOSER THAN IT LOOKED The San Leandro City Council's vote to approve RCV starting this November was far closer than the 5-2 tally would suggest. Since Santos participated in Tuesday's meeting by teleconference from Washington, D.C., the council voted alphabetically by roll call instead of electronically as they normally do. Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who most viewed was the swing vote, sided with RCV after questioning whether the city was gravitating towards a revenue-enhancement measure in June or November. Of Course, Reed comes before Souza, alphabetically. Did Souza switch her vote on RCV after Reed's vote had already clinched its passing? Of all the councilmembers, Souza was the most skeptical about the mechanics of RCV in addition to the addition costs to the city. Nonetheless, After coming out on the minority side of the vote, Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak looked obviously peeved at the outcome of the vote as she sat in Santos' seat while he was out of town. The loss may not sting Starosciak politically, though. She can always maintain she was against RCV for budgetary reasons when or if the city's budget continues to fall on its face.

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Instant runoff voting for US Presidential Election - not feasible in real world

The Sacramento Bee has an OpEd today promoting the use of Instant Runoff Voting for the US Presidential Election. The writer, Blair Bobier suggests that holds up Ireland's method of electing their president as example to the US to follow. Bobier does not address the issue of whether our elections systems can even count a complicated IRV election. Bobier also writes about abolishing the electoral college and adopting proportional representation, but I'm focusing on the issue of IRV:

Viewpoints: Constitution's anti-democratic, outdated values in need of purge Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 Blair Bobier
Although George Bush's 2000 election is perhaps the starkest example of the shortcomings of the Electoral College, it must be noted that Bill Clinton was twice elected without a majority vote. This irrational electoral process is not only undemocratic, it results in a political beauty pageant devoid of serious scrutiny or debate. Using instant-runoff voting to elect our president, as the Republic of Ireland does, would encourage consideration of a diversity of candidates, allow for substantive debate and ensure that our national leader has the broadest support possible.

Free speech for all, a representative government and a democratically elected president: "The world's greatest democracy" should settle for nothing less.

Bobier holds up Ireland's Presidential office and election as an example to the US. But there is no comparison at all! Consider the facts: while Ireland's presidential office is mostly a ceremonial position, the election is only held every 7 years, and turnout for the last election was only 1.2 million voters total (out of about 2.4 million registered voters, about 50% turnout). Compare that to US Presidential election with over 131.2 million voters (615 turnout) held every 4 years.

How on earth would you administer and count a nationwide IRV election? IRV is not additive. There is no such thing as a "subtotal" in IRV. In IRV every single vote may have to be sent individually to the central agency. How is this even feasible? A national IRV election would make Bush v Gore seem a walk in the park.

Bobier's statement that instant runoff voting would increase debate is not based on fact. Wherever IRV is adopted debate has been sadly lacking. In fact, citizens of Burlington Vermont cite IRV's negative impact on debate as one of several reasons for a vote on repealing instant runoff voting this March 2010.

Instant runoff voting is a well intended election reform, but is not practical, does not meet its promise, violates election transparency practices, and makes elections overly complex.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Instant Runoff Voting met campaign finance snag in San Francisco

Cities considering Instant runoff voting should examine their charters for campaign finance laws and laws regarding majority requirements. When San Francisco adopted IRV, they leaped and then looked. San Francisco had to change their charter on majority requirements and also and campaign finance snags. When San Francisco adopted IRV, they not only had to change the name to ranked choice voting because of the constitution, they also ran into a snag in campaign finance laws. Here's the NY Times article I just found about that.

San Francisco's New Election System Runs Into an Obstacle
By DEAN E. MURPHY Published: October 17, 2004

AN FRANCISCO, Oct. 16 - San Francisco's introduction in November of a new municipal election system known as instant runoff voting has hit an unexpected snag with the city's Ethics Commission.

One of the most noted byproducts of the unusual system - cooperation among rival candidates in races for the Board of Supervisors - might be in violation of city and state campaign finance laws. The commission is scheduled to consider the matter on Monday in response to queries from several campaigns worried about the political fallout of possible ethics charges

"It is important that we start discussing it and decide how we would like to interpret the law," said Mabel Ng, the commission's deputy executive director. "This is the first time this has come up."

Under instant runoff voting, voters are asked to rank their top three choices for an office. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the second and possibly third choices are counted until one candidate receives a majority. The system eliminates the need for a separate runoff election.

With the instant runoff in mind, some of the 65 candidates have been identifying their preferences for the second and third slots in their races. Rivals have also held joint fund-raisers, shared Web sites and printed campaign literature that identifies their ranked choices.

But several campaigns have been advised by the Ethics Commission staff that city and state laws appear to ban cooperation among candidates if it involves the expenditure of campaign funds. For example, a candidate can walk door to door with a rival and endorse the rival in conversations with voters, but the candidate cannot print and distribute literature that makes the same endorsement.

The problem is a section of the city's campaign and government conduct code, which mirrors a provision in state law, prohibiting candidates from making independent
expenditures to support or oppose other candidates. The Ethics Commission has ruled in the past that the purpose of the ban was "to ensure that campaign funds are spent only for the candidate to which the donors provided the funds."

Greg Dewar, a consultant for Susan King, one of the candidates in District 5, said Ms. King wanted to list a rival, Ross Mirkarimi, in a campaign pamphlet as her second choice. But when Mr. Dewar contacted the Ethics Commission staff about the plan, he said, no one could say for sure if it was legal.

"The rules have not caught up with the election changes," Mr. Dewar said. "This was not quite thought out."

In nearby District 3, where three candidates have loosely joined forces, the campaigns have tried to avoid legal problems by dividing their joint expenses. But Chuck Thomas, who assists the campaign of one of the three, Eugene C. Wong, said the campaigns want an official ruling from the commission.

"We don't want to have this come back at us the day before the election and have ethics charges," Mr. Thomas said.

With the election fast approaching, Ms. Ng said that the commission would probably make an interim decision, but that the question would ultimately be settled by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

A spokeswoman for the state commission, Sigrid Bathen, said the laws in question resulted from a statewide ballot measure that passed in 2000. Should the San Francisco candidates be found in violation, Ms. Bathen said, only a formal ruling by the state commission would exonerate them from prosecution.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Burlington: press conf on repealing instant runoff voting

Update on petition to repeal instant runoff voting in Burlington Vermont. The citizens have enough signatures to force an up or down vote this March 2010.

One Person, One Vote Press Conference

Former Burlington City Council President Kurt Wright called this press conference addressing Instant Runoff Voting and the status of the petition drive to repeal instant runoff voting in Burlington. Speaking on behalf of 'One Person, One Vote' movement are: John Ewing, Chuck Seleen, Dave Hartnett, Sam Osborne, and Linda Chagnon.

Watch the video, several different people speak. It was said that instant runoff voting had reduced debate, and that they wanted to get rid of IRV and regain that vigorous debate.

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