Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down I-872


For Immediate Release / August 22nd 2006
Contact: Ryan Griffin, Campaign Manager
(253) 228-1991 - info@yesonthree.com

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down I-872

Pierce County Charter Amendment Three Has Better Solution to Pick-A-Party Primary

In 2004, voters in Washington rejected the pick-a-party primary by approving I-872. However, I-872's "top-two" primary system failed to protect the associational rights of the political parties and, like the blanket primary, was ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Washington voters still do not like the pick-a-party primary and the Pierce County Charter Review Commission has responded with Proposed Charter Amendment Three. This amendment would replace the pick-a-party primary with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for county offices. IRV gives voters the opportunity to vote for any candidate and any party, just like in the blanket primary. It also honors the associational rights of political parties by protecting their control of the party name on the ballot.

In November, Pierce County voters will have the chance to take a leadership position in the state in replacing the pick-a-party primary. Voter-friendly IRV gives voters the choices of the blanket primary and parties the control of their name on the ballot. If successful, this could be a model for the rest of the state to follow.

Citizens for a Better Ballot - 1119 Pacific Ave. #1103, Tacoma, WA 98402 - http://www.yesonthree.com/


Monday, August 14, 2006

Seattle P-I editorial on Pick-A-Party Primary

This editorial appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on August 13, 2006.

Sunday, August 13, 2006
State Elections: Primary question

Next month's state primary election may show that constituents are satisfied with their legislators' performance -- or how daunting it is to take on an incumbent lawmaker.

Of the 121 seats in the Legislature up for election this year, there are primary races for only 18 of them, according to the secretary of state. Half of those are to fill open seats due to retirement or resignation.

Of the remaining nine races, only four involve incumbents being challenged within their own party. Thirty-seven incumbents are assured a free ride in both the primary and general elections.

Seattle incumbents avoid primary challenges in swath districts, including Reps. Zack Hudgins and Bob Hasegawa in the 11th District, Reps. Maralyn Chase and Ruth Kagi in the 32nd, Sen. Erik Poulsen and Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe McDermott in the 34th, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reps. Helen Sommers and Mary Lou Dickerson in the 36th, Sen. Adam Kline and Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew in the 37th, House veteran turned Senate candidate Ed Murray and Rep. Frank Chopp in the 43rd, Sen. Ken Jacobsen and Reps. Jim McIntire and Phyllis Kenney in the 46th.

Poulsen, Cody, Kohl-Welles, Sommers, Dickerson, Kline, Santos, McIntire and Kenney face no opponents in the general election, either.

We're back to the pick-a-party system. No more crossover voting. The party stalwarts most likely to participate don't figure to be big change agents. It works to the incumbents' and parties' advantage.

Should we rethink -- or even abandon -- the political primary?

Voters already are fed up with the state's major political parties' suing to do away with the beloved "blanket" primary. Does it still make sense for the taxpayers to foot the bill for this election?

Should we consider a non-partisan system, where the debate can be over issues and qualifications, not party affiliation?

Should we drop the primary altogether and run a single "instant runoff" election in which voters rank their choices in candidates 1-2-3? The Pierce County Charter Review Commission voted to put an instant runoff vote amendment on November's ballot.

The electoral process, after all, belongs to voters, not to politicians.


Burbank Column on Instant Runoff Voting

The column below appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune on August 9, 2006.

Pierce County would benefit from instant runoff voting
Published: August 9th, 2006 01:00 AM

We Americans claim democracy as the basis of our government. But voter turnout is dismal. In the 2004 general election, fewer than three out of five voting-age adults voted in Pierce County. In the 2002 general election, only 36 percent of adults bothered to vote.

And “bother” is an accurate term for a lot of people’s attitudes to voting. We have a growing antagonism to elections, thanks in part to negative campaigns and the feeling that “it doesn’t make any difference.” This feeds the gap of distrust between U.S. citizens and government, creating a void in our democracy.

We can either whine about it or do something about it. This November, Pierce County residents will be able to do something about it. Thanks to the actions of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission, Pierce County voters will decide whether to switch to instant runoff voting to choose local elected officials.

This is not a panacea for all the ills of our democracy, but it certainly opens up participation and choice and will make political debates more about real issues and less about personal attacks. Instant runoff voting is worth consideration and support.

Our current system could be characterized as a two-party duopoly that limits electoral choices and political discussion. You can either vote for a Democrat, or a Republican or someone else who doesn’t have a chance at victory.
Our system creates some weird results. Take the 2002 race for Pierce County Council in District 1.

The eventual Republican nominee, Shawn Bunney, got 2,586 votes, or 25 percent of the votes for Republican candidates. Then in November, he received less than 48 percent of the vote and was elected. His Democratic opponent received 40 percent of the vote; almost 12 percent went to the independent, Jay Argo.

The lack of a majority vote for Bunney makes you wonder who Argo’s voters would have chosen if they could have indicated their second choice. Most likely, they might have chosen Bunney, given that Argo is a pretty conservative guy. But that’s my assumption, not the actual choices.

And that’s the reason for instant runoff voting. It gives total legitimacy to the eventual winner and does so by including the voting choices of a majority of voters.

Here is how it works. The different parties – Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, the Green Party and whatever other parties – nominate their own candidates for office. They may choose to nominate one, two or even more candidates. But they serve as gatekeepers for who gets their seal of approval. We skip the primary election, in which fewer than one out of four adults participated in 2002.

All the candidates nominated by the several parties stand for election in November. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent, then she or he is the winner, and that’s that. But if no one gets more than 50 percent, then the second choices of the voters who supported the candidate who got the fewest votes get distributed to the remaining candidates.

If a candidate now gets more than 50 percent, a winner is declared. But if that doesn’t happen, then the candidate with the next fewest votes is eliminated and the second choices of his or her supporters are distributed to the remaining candidates.

This continues until a candidate picks up a majority of the votes.
This could have a calming effect on campaigns, turning them into civil discussions rather than shouting matches. After all, if you are a candidate, you want people to vote for you. But you will be careful what you say about your opponents, because those folks who don’t vote for you may put you down as your second choice.

This happened in San Francisco, after the city adopted instant runoff voting. All of a sudden, the candidates were forming alliances. They held joint campaign events. Civil debate and voter turnout both went up.

Instant runoff voting is catching on around the country. It is the method for voting in San Francisco and Burlington, Vt. Voters will have a chance this November to make instant runoff voting official in Minneapolis city elections as well as in Oakland and Davis, Calif. In North Carolina, it will be used for statewide elections for judges, and in Vermont the secretary of state is developing a plan for implementation in 2008.

Instant runoff voting ensures that our elected officials truly represent the majority. That alone is worth support in a nation that prides itself on democracy.

John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (http://www.eoionline.org/), writes every other Wednesday.

Write to him in care of the institute at 1900 Northlake Way, Suite 237, Seattle, WA 98103. His e-mail address is john@eoionline.org.