Ron Paul, Pierce County and Ranked Choice Voting
Bloggers note: For background on the Ron Paul campaign in the state of Washington, see this posting.
Ron Paul's candidacy for the Republican nomination for President is stirring up quite a bit of activity by political newcomers/outsiders. In Pierce County, Washington, the election system will allow Paul's supporters to participate quite effectively in county level politics without the support of the traditional political establishment. It will be interesting to see if the Paul supporters choose to participate in county level politics and, if so, how they do it.
Pierce County will use Ranked Choice Voting to elect its County Executive and various members of the County Council in 2008. This system of voting puts all candidates directly on the general election ballot regardless of party. Candidates who want to run as Democrats, Libertarians or Republicans must receive permission from the parties to do so. However, it is quite easy to get on the ballot and run as an independent as well.
The Democrats and Libertarians have adopted inclusive policies for candidacies, but the Republican rules will make it difficult for more than one candidate to appear on the ballot as a Republican in any race. The Republican candidate set is pretty much determined at this point.
Shawn Bunney is running for County Executive, Joyce McDonald is running for the County Council District #2 seat, and Roger Bush (District #3) and Dick Muri (District #6) will be running for re-election. Probably no Republican will sign up to run against Tim Farrell for his County Council seat (District #4) representing Tacoma. It will be difficult for someone else who wants to run for one of these offices to get on the ballot as a Republican.
Paul supporters wanting to participate in these races will probably file as either Libertarians or independents. This is much more reasonable to do in ranked choice voting elections than our standard plurality elections. Since voters have the opportunity to list their first choice,their second choice and their third choice, a Libertarian or independent in a race is not likely to "spoil" the election of a Republican....unless the Libertarian or independent actually wins.
One can see a circumstance where the Libertarian candidate for County Executive might advocate Bunney as his second choice and vice versa. Sources in the Democratic Party say that Calvin Goings and Pat McCarthy are already planning on such cooperative campaigning for their campaigns for County Executive.
Given the resistance of some of the Republican establishment in Pierce County to the Paul suppporters, this idea of peaceful coexistence between Republicans and Libertarians might be the best compromise for the two factions of activists. If Paul does not win the state of Washington GOP primary/caucus, Paul supporters may well feel more comfortable with this approach to participating in the local political scene.
Sidenote: The idea of a Ron Paul Libertarian running for County Council District #3 against Republican Bush is decidedly entertaining, especially since District #3 is the most libertarian district in the county.