Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ranked Choice Voting: Another prog fiasco

Photo by Molly Riley for Reuters

The Examiner's Ken Garcia writes about the "grand experiment known as ranked-choice voting":

In the past few years, a host of cities---which had been lobbied by the group that has been trying to inflict ranked-choice voting on municipalities across the country---have decided to toss out the system. A number of others have seen the results and opted not to change election standards. Burlington, Vt., repealed RCV in 2010. Cary, N.C., dumped it after a two-year adventure. Glendale, Ariz., rejected it in 2008. San Jose studied it for two years and then decided to keep its majority-voting system, noting that changing it would be too costly and that it would unnecessarily complicate the election process. Honolulu gave it a thumbs-down.

Add Pierce County, Washington, to the list of jurisdictions that have rejected RCV.

How did San Francisco come to adopt the ranked-choice voting system? In 2002 the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to put instant run-off on the ballot (pages 39-48 of the Voters Pamphlet): Ammiano, Daly, Gonzalez, Hall, Leno, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Newsom, Peskin, and Sandoval voted yes, and, to his credit, only Leland Yee voted no.

The Ballot Simplification Committee provided an accurate account of how it would work:

All voters whose first choice was eliminated would have their vote transferred to their second-choice candidate. This process of transferring votes to the voter’s next-choice candidate and eliminating candidates with the fewest votes would be repeated until one candidate received more than 50% of the votes.

Yes, but in reality that's only 50% of the remaining votes after all the other choices of many voters have been eliminated, which means a small minority of voters in effect will decide who wins.

The election of Supervisor Malia Cohen in District 10 in 2010 is a good example of the kind of grotesque result RCV provides. In the first round, Cohen got 2,097 votes out of a total of 20,550 cast, while Tony Kelly got 2,102. It took 20 rounds to eliminate Kelly and everyone else before Cohen got more than 50%, winning with 4,321 of the original 20,550 votes, only 21% of the original votes cast!

Uber-prog Matt Gonzalez was the prime mover for this bad idea back in 2002. Recall that in his one term as supervisor Gonzalez also brought the city the leftist failure on the homeless issuegraffiti/tagging as art and, at the behest of the Bicycle Coalition, the ban on the right-turn from Market Street onto the freeway at Market and Octavia. Quite a legacy! Maybe that's why he and Ralph Nader only got 1% of the vote in 2008 in his home town, while capitalist tools Obama and Biden got 83%.

Like the Octavia Blvd. fiasco, ranked-choice voting was supported by a who's-who of SF progressivism: the Sierra Club, Common Cause, SPUR, the National Lawyers Guild, the SF Democratic Party, the League of Conservation Voters, CALPIRG, the Green Party, the SF Bicycle Coalition ("This is the way to elect politicians who care about safer streets and a more livable city for everyone"), Dan Kalb, Mark Leno, Jake McGoldrick, Eric Mar, Mark Sanchez, Tom Radulovich, Wade Crowfoot, and Jeff Adachi.

Then-Supervisors Gavin Newsom, Aaron Peskin, and Gerardo Sandoval voted to put RCV on the ballot, and then, for some reason, voted against the supervisors' ballot argument supporting the proposition.

It was left mostly to those cranky Republicans to try in vain to uphold common sense against the prog lemmings, though it's interesting to note that Sue Bierman, Jane Morrison, and Calvin Welch all opposed RCV.

Matt Smith gets it on RCV, and so does George Wooding.

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At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be fine if there weren't 16 fucking candidates. It worked just fine in all the supervisor races but D10. But... sometimes there will be 16 fucking candidates.

I like RCV in theory (saves $$$), but in this race it's fucking us over. Lee will not get a majority in the first round, but he will win. If there were a runoff, a lot of people would collectively get behind Herrera or Chiu or Adachi or Avalos and Ed Lee would not be able to hide.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The underlying assumption is that there can be more than one acceptable candidate. I'm having a hard time finding one in this race, though I'm leaning toward just voting for Adachi with all three choices. At least he's willing to stand up to the union bully-boys on the pension issue. And he opposes the Central Subway and Prop. B, the outrageously costly street bond.

The worst thing about RCV is that it encourages a phony sense of consensus, as candidates go whoring after second and third choice votes. The SFBC's questionnaire demonstrated that problem very well.

At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm leaning toward just voting for Adachi with all three choices.

You have either
1) Disqualified yourself from pontificating about ranked choice voting
2) Made the point that RCV is a bad idea.

If you vote for Adachi on all three lines, you waste your vote.

Look at your assumption. Let's say it was an old school runoff election, and you vote for Adachi. But it comes out Ed Lee and John Avalos are 1/2, with Ed not getting a majority. By your logic, since you find both of those candidates unacceptable, you should not be allowed to vote in the runoff - remember no write-in votes in the runoff.

RCV lets you vote for Adachi, and then choose the lesser of two evils, which is exactly what you would have to do anyway if there were a runoff. Would you protest the runoff and not vote? That's what you would do by putting Adachi on all three lines.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If it was an "old school runoff" with Lee and Avalos, my vote for Adachi in a primary would be already eliminated. If Adachi makes the second round in this RCV system, my second vote for him is counted, and ditto for the third round.

Since I find none of the other candidates even minimally acceptable, once Adachi is eliminated of course my participation in the runoff would be over. From my perspective, there's no way to calculate whether Avalos or Lee would be the worst choice, since they would both be awful.

The fatuous assumption underlying the RCV system: that we routinely have so many wonderful and/or acceptable candidates for office that we're somehow obligated to try to make such distinctions. It's all crap and still another dumb "good government" idea dredged up by our intellecually deficient "progressive" leadership here in Progressive Land.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't get it.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

How so? Please provide some specifics.

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". . . voting for Adachi with all three choices"

If you put down the same name more than once the machine will spit the ballot back out and you'll have to redo it.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Not true. I always vote, and I've done that before with no problem.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've wasted my vote before and they let me"

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's only true if you think that when you vote for a losing candidate your vote is wasted. Besides, your point was that my ballot would be rejected if I put Adachi's name on for all three choices, which is incorrect.

Why should I waste my time voting for candidates I don't like? I don't think there are second and third choices worthy of my vote.

RCV gives people the illusion of choice, which is true only if you're delusional enough to think there are three good choices among the candidates.

At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there was an old style runoff, and you voted for Adachi, and he didn't win, would you boycott the runoff?

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Depends on who his opponent is. Do you think there's virtue in the act of voting itself, regardless of the candidates or the issue?

At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's say it came down to Chiu and Baum in an old style runoff, 2 candidates I'm sure you find obnoxious. Are you saying that you would not vote? One of them is guaranteed to win - are you saying you just have zero preference for the lesser of two evils and would not vote?

That's lame. It would be one thing if you were a disinterested uneducated voter. I might think you are pretty much wrong on everything except perhaps the Central Subway, but I can at least respect that your misguided conclusions are not for lack of research.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What are you, a League of Women Voters rep or a Boy Scout? One is obligated to vote regardless of the choices offered, like we're supposed to sort our recyclables? "Research" on the comparative virtues---not readily visible to these tired old eyes---of Chiu versus Baum? Talk about a sterile exercise! Angels dancing on pins!

Chiu is a Chinese Sammy Glick, all ambition and drive with a campaign as empty and pathetic as, say, that of Bevan Dufty. Baum represents the Green Party, which is so useless politically even Jane Kim and Ross Mirkarimi have abandoned it.

No, it's clear to me that the city is fucked no matter which of the 16 is elected, since he/she will continue the awful City Hall "family" policies that are damaging the city: "smart growth"---perhaps the greatest misnomer in modern American civic life---and the goofy, anti-car bike bullshit endorsed by all of the 16 lemmings. And the Central Subway, Parkmerced, Treasure Island, the Market/Octavia Plan, the PC figleaf put on allowing UC to rip off the old extension property on lower Haight for a massive housing development, etc.

I'll say it again: all RCV is good for is saving money on runoffs.

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they all suck - then who cares if there is RCV or we just draw a name out of the hat? If so, why are you bitching? Because... that's what you do! If you hate it so much - MOVE. That's a tired cliche but in this case, that's our goal - to get rid of your tired old ass!

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"If they all suck---then who cares if there is RCV or we just draw a name out of the hat?"

Exactly! I think that's what we're doing in this mayoral election. RCV just puts an extra layer of bullshit in the process that encourages conformity and discourages real debate on important issues.

As I've pointed out a number of times, there are few significant policy differences among the candidates. Adachi represents a couple of those differences: he opposes---or at least is skeptical---the Central Subway project, and, in a hand-out I got at Lucky Market the other day, he opposes the street bond, though his website doesn't say that.

In short, just because he's not a member in good standing of the City Hall "family," Adachi represents at least the possibility of a more thorough-going skepticism of city policy, which is what the city really needs.

Alas, he buys all the bike nonsense, but nobody's perfect! But, if he's elected, his innate skepticism could lead him to understand how misguided that policy is.

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, you are factually incorrect on RCV procedure.

Using all three slots for one candidate only means that once your first-choice candidate is eliminated, your ballot is exhausted because your second and third choices, being the exact same candidate, was previously eliminated. Your ballot has no where to go in the continuing counting process.

You have not voted for Adachi in three separate rounds, you have voted for him once - same as if you marked him your first choice and left slots two and three blank. The only way for your ballot to not be exhausted is to pick, with your three available choices, one of the two final candidates who will have survived through all of the elimination rounds.

RCV, originally sold by Pied Piper Steven Hill as IRV, (Instant Runoff Voting), is an electoral disaster, and your honest mistake exemplifies the needless complexity of a flawed system which encourages voter disenfranchisement. If someone at your political skill level boots it, then what about Joe Voter who is not as astute a participant or observer?


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As I clearly explained above, voting for your only choice three times under this system is not a mistake at all. The idiotic, Milk Monitor, Good Government[sic] assumption of RCV is that voters can or should fine-tune their political choices to the point where, as your earlier comment suggested, we're obligated to discern the differences between, say, Chiu and Baum to calibrate our three choices.

I will only vote for a candidate who comes withing hailing distance of my politics, and only Adachi comes close, which makes him the ony valid choice for me. Playing the RCV game as if it represented a choice for me would be the real mistake, and I refuse to play.


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