Thursday, June 07, 2018

RCV and the illusion of choice 4

Photo: Molly Riley, Reuters

How did San Francisco end up with the awful Ranked Choice Voting system? 

Matt Smith told us how in the SF Weekly in 2011. It all started after the 2000 presidential election led to President George W. Bush:

Following the [2000]Florida vote recount, Democrats all over America felt moved to telephone the most radical-left friends or family members they could think of — many in San Francisco. They berated, insulted, and sometimes threatened to disown their left-coast loved ones for having supported the presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader and thus being supposedly complicit in coronating George W. Bush. A therapist I interviewed during that era said guilt, fear, and anger among her Naderite patients had produced "battered-wife syndrome dynamics."

Of course "progressive" San Francisco had an answer to the Florida problem, which was really a Constitutional problem with the archaic electoral college that allowed a president to be elected even after losing the popular vote. Hence, the presidencies of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.

Smith tells us what happened in San Francisco:

...the fall of 2000 also elevated to the Board of Supervisors a Green Party Nader champion named Matt Gonzalez, who promised to solve the problem of fringe-voter angst with something called ranked-choice voting. Under this system, voters could support third parties in good conscience by choosing first-, second-, and third-choice candidates...This process of elimination is repeated until a candidate wins more than 50 percent, meaning under ranked-choice voting, a Nader would never again produce a Bush (emphasis added).

As Smith points out, RCV was passed in March, 2002, by city voters in a low-turnout (34%) election.

But the RCV system is now unpopular. The last public opinion poll of city voters that asked about it found that 58% opposed the system and only 31% supported it. 

In 2000 San Francisco changed from at-large elections to district elections to choose its supervisors. No elected officials in city history have done more damage to San Francisco than the supervisors elected that year, particularly Matt Gonzalez. 

Recall that in his one term as supervisor Gonzalez led the way on the progressive failure on homelessness; designated graffiti/tagging vandalism as art; and, at the behest of the Bicycle Coalition, originated the ban on the right-turn from Market Street onto the freeway at Market and Octavia. The new and unimproved Octavia Blvd. had just been turned into a surface expressway to and from the Central Freeway in the middle of the Hayes Valley neighborhood (Octavia Boulevard: A "progressive" fiasco).

Add Ranked Choice Voting to Gonzalez's damaging policy legacy.

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Trump, treason, and Russia

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