Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ranked Choice Voting: A bogus "good government" idea that refuses to die


Voting in general is getting easier and more convenient, unless you live in a red state where Republicans are trying to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Here in Progressive Land there's early voting and few obstacles.

Once you're registered, however, the artificial complication begins with the dumb, delusional Ranked Choice Voting system. From a recent story in BeyondChron:

In San Francisco, ranked choice voting will help voters choose among the many candidates running this November. There are nine candidates vying for the open seat in District 1 (currently held by Eric Mar); five candidates in District 7 (currently held by Norman Yee); four candidates in an open seat race in District 9 (currently held by David Campos); and five candidates in the open seat in District 11 (currently held by John Avalos).

No, RCV won't help you choose, since you can only make three choices after you have already gone through the process of sorting out the candidates and finding three you find acceptable.

Like a lot of people, I often find it hard-to-impossible to find even one acceptable candidate, let alone three. This was the case in the November, 2011, campaign for Mayor of San Francisco, when there were 16 candidates

Public Defender Jeff Adachi was the only candidate who was even minimally acceptable to me, so I simply chose him three times. If he's eliminated in the first round, so be it. My candidate loses and someone else wins. But that's what elections are about: there's always only one winner in the end.

The only good thing about RCV: it saves money, since the city doesn't have to pay for run-off elections.

But run-off elections should be an important part of the process; they force a debate between the two leading candidates on the issues. As it is, during campaigns candidates now play down their policy differences to woo support from other candidates so that they can get voters' second and third choices.

The city's Advisory Committee on  Elections warned about this when RCV was on the ballot in 2002:

...there could be collusion between various candidates to be listed on each other’s campaign literature as their second or third choices. The cost of that collusion would be to reduce the level of meaningful debate on the issues and to hide ideological differences. The losers would be the voters and the media who would be unable to discern one candidate from another.

That's the way it works now, with the bland leading the bland and the least offensive candidate winning in the end. That's what happened in District 5 in 2012, when there were 12 undistinguished candidates---politically indistinguishable, actually---for District 5 Supervisor. I couldn't bring myself to vote for any of them. 

We ended up with London Breed, who didn't know much of anything and was quickly co-opted by City Hall on all important issues. A run-off election between Breed and Christina Olague might have revealed that reality.

City voters don't like the RCV system, as the last poll that asked about the issue showed.

For some historical/political context on RCV in San Francisco see Ranked Choice Voting: Another prog fiasco from 2011 and London Breed's leadership.


 

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