Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hearing on Senate Bill 6000

On Monday, February 26, the Senate Government Operations Committee held a hearing Senator Swecker's Senate Bill 6000. In addition to Senator Swecker, Kelly Haughton, Toni McKinley, Susan Eidenschink , and Melvin Mackey spoke on behalf of allowing cities and other local taxing entities in Pierce County to use ranked choice voting.

Katie Blinn of the Secretary of State's office spoke against the bill. She seemed most concerned that entities which crossed county lines would use ranked choice voting in one part of the entity and standard voting in the other. I rather doubt this would happen, but that was her main concern. Senator Oemig asked her a couple of questions which indicated he understood the issues pretty well.


Pierce County Council support of SB 6000 and HB 2202

Yesterday, the Pierce County Council held a study session on Senate Bill 6000. Councilman Muri reports a consensus was reached to tell their lobbyist to support SB 6000 (and its companion bill HB 2202) in the state legislature.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Voting System Broken; Let's Try Alternatives

We have tried the pick-a-party system. It is a failure with voters. The voters find the system disenfranchising and confusing. The spoilage rates on primary ballots are extremely high. Public officials of all stripes hear nothing but complaints about the system. The Secretary of State's office and the county auditors have tried hard to make it work. It is time to move on and try something different.

In Pierce County, the voters have chosen to try ranked choice voting to elect their county level officials. In places where ranked choice voting has been tried the voters believe it is an improvement over how they voted in the past. In addition, voters are able to vote correctly as evidenced by low spoilage rates. The spoilage rates on ranked choice ballots are an order of magnitude lower than the rates on pick-a-party ballots.

When the Pierce County Charter Amendment passed in November, local government officials such as city council members and park commissioners asked to be able to use ranked choice voting to elect their officials as well. These public officials liked what they heard about this alternative to traditional voting systems and wanted state enabling legislation giving them the option to try the alternative.

As a result, we are promoting Senate Bill 6000 and its companion House Bill 2202 to allow cities and other local taxing entities the option to use ranked choice voting starting in 2009. These bills will allow us to expand the search for alternatives to our current broken system. Please email your State Senator and State Representatives to encourage them to support SB 6000 and HB 2202.

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House Bill 2202 hearing before House Local Government Committee

The House Local Government Committee held a hearing on HB 2202 on February 22. Toni McKinley and Kelly Haughton testified on behalf of Rep. Richard Curtis' bill. Time was tight and the testimony was uneventful.

Representatives from the Secretary of State's office and the Association of County Auditors spoke against the bill. They seemed to be concerned that since voters are confused by the pick-a-party primary, voters need to continue using this failed system rather than trying alternatives.

The voters are ready to move on. HB 2202 simply provides local entities in Pierce County to try an alternative to our current failed system. We hope this bill continues to move through the process. Kudos to Representatives Curtis, Simpson, Moeller, Seaquist and Lantz for sponsoring this bill.


King County Charter Review Commission meeting agenda 2/27/2007

Meeting 1 – Meet and Greet Session
Seattle Municipal Tower
40th Floor
(Dinner to follow shortly thereafter – O’Asian)
Co-Chairs: Gov. Mike Lowry and Lois North

5:05pm-5:20pm – Executive Sims addresses and welcomes the commission. Executive Sims communicates his vision for this Charter Review Commission

5:30pm-5:45pm – Introductions to the Charter Review Commission, the Co-Chairs, and Staff

5:45pm-6:00pm – Introduction to the Charter Review Process

6:00pm-6:10pm – Break

6:10pm-6:30pm – Executive Summary of the 1996-1997 Charter Review Process

6:30pm-7:00pm – Next Steps (Set timeline, dates for next meeting, divide into workgroups)

7:00pm-9:00pm – Dinner at O’Asian Restaurant (800 Fifth Avenue, Seattle WA 98104)


King County Charter Review Commission membership list

2007 KING COUNTY CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION (This list is in order of district representation -- the Co-Chairs are former Governor Mike Lowry & Lois North)

Kirstin Haugen
Former King County council staffmember; Currently at Mercury (Political Advertising Firm)

Dan Gandara
Founding partner at VJ&G Law firm, President - King County Bar Association

Darcy Goodman
Former King County District Court Judge, member KC Budget Advisory Task Force

Juan Bocanegra
Community Activist / Northwest Empowerment Institute

John Groen
Founding partner of Groen Stephens & Klinge LLP

Terry Lavendar
Shared Strategy for Puget Sound

Bryan Glynn
Legal counsel for Cascade Land
Conservancy; former director of King County's Building and Land Development Permitting Agency

Gregg Hirakawa
City of Seattle DOT Director of Communications

Lois North
Former King County Councilmember -
Original freeholder

Mike Wilkins
Former Deputy Assistant County Executive

Tara Jo Heinecke
Outgoing Chair, 33rd District Dems, Extensive Background in labor relations

Doreen Cato
Executive Director of First Place

Sarah Rindlaub
Washington Policy Center Board Member, worked for Hoover Institute and the airline industry

James Williams
Partner at Perkins Coie Law Firm

Trisha Ann Bennett
VP Gov't Affairs, Bennett Forest Industries

Allan W. Munro
Distingushed lawyer, Active community member

Gary Long
Suburban Cities Association - Former City Manager, Burien

Jim English
UAC Member - President of Vashon-Maury Island

Sharon Maeda
Longtime community activist and served on KC Governance Commission

John Jensen
President of Newcastle Chamber of Commerce

Mike Lowry
Former Governor and King County Councilmember


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SB 6000 hearing before Government Operations Committee

SB 6000 to allow cities and other local taxing entities in Pierce County to use ranked choice voting to elect the officials will be heard on Monday, February 26, 2007 at 10 am before the Senate Government Operations Committee in Olympia.


Clallam County Charter Review Commission

There is currently a Clallam County Charter Review Commission hearing testimony about changes to their charter. Ranked Choice advocates led by Nelson Cone are advocating a Pierce County style ranked choice voting amendment be put on the ballot in November.

To hear more contact Nelson at sharnel@olypen.com.


King County Charter Review Commission meeting

The King County Charter Review Commission will hold its first meeting on February 27, 2007 in the Seattle Municipal Tower. This meeting will be primarily a meet and greet meeting.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Voter Confusion

Many people in Washington State who are uncomfortable with Ranked Choice Voting (or Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)) worry the voters of Washington will be confused by this new system of voting. As a proof of this, they note that the counties of Washington had a spoilage rate of 9-11% of the new pick-a-party primary ballots this past September. There is another way to look at this information.

This past fall, San Francisco and Burlington, VT had spoilage rates of 0.4% and 0.1% respectively in their IRV elections. Voters in these two cities handled the IRV ballot quite well.

Either the pick-a-party primary system is far more confusing than IRV or the voters of San Francisco and Burlington are smarter than the voters of Washington. The former assertion seems more reasonable to me.

The state of Washington has tried the pick-a-party primary system and the voters do not like it and are confused by the ballot. The state needs to look for alternatives to the pick-a-party system which will reduce voter confusion and increase voter satisfaction. Ranked Choice Voting or IRV will do just that.

HB 2202 and SB 6000 will allow the state to expand the IRV experiment in democracy to a broader group of races. Since our current system is broken, we need to expand these experiments to cover more types of races. These two bills deserve your support.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Retirement to cost Port $200,000+

Long-time Port Commissioner Jack Fabulich has announced that he will not be running for re-election in the fall and this will likely cost the Port of Tacoma over $200,000. Why?

In most years, there is limited competition for Port Commissioner jobs at the Port of Tacoma, but with an open seat we are likely to see a crowded field to replace Commissioner Fabulich. It is great to see more choices for the voters, but there are costs.

Under our current system of electing non-partisan officials if more than two candidates sign up to run for a particular office, then the Auditor's office will run a low turnout August primary and reduce the field to two candidates going forward to the general election. This primary costs money. In examining the cost allocations of the September 2005 primary when the County itself was in a similar position, the allocation was $250,000+.

Is there a better way? In the State Legislature, Senate Bill 6000 and its companion bill, House Bill 2202 have been introduced as a solution to this problem. These bills would allow the Port District and other local entities to elect their officials using Ranked Choice Voting in the general election and eliminate the primary.

All candidates would move directly to the general election and voters would be allowed to rank the candidates in order of their preference. The absence of a primary means candidates will only need to run in one election, thus cutting the costs of running for office. This will encourage more voter choice, while saving money for the Port District.

The State Legislature can help the Port District and others by passing SB 6000 and its companion bill, HB 2202.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

HB 2202 receives hearing on Thursday, February 22

HB 2202 which allowing cities and other local taxing entities in Pierce County to use ranked choice voting to elect their officials has been scheduled for a hearing before the House Local Government Committee on Thursday, February 22, 2007.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Vashon/Maury Island Community Council

Citizens of Vashon and Maury Island (in King County) elected their Community Council using ranked choice voting software from the web. This small community in the Puget Sound area showed how it can be done.

It appears as if this is a quasi-government group and not subject to the rules of the state elections law. Fire districts and park districts are subject to the state election laws. With the passage of HB 2202 or SB 6000, fire districts and park districts in Pierce County would be able to follow the lead of Vashon and Maury Island.


Monday, February 12, 2007

HB 2202 assigned to Local Government Committee

House Bill 2202 - to allow cities and other local taxing entities to use ranked choice voting to elect their officials - has been assigned to the House Local Government Committee. Rep. Geoff Simpson is the Chair of the Committee.

Senate Bill 6000 - the companion bill - has been assigned to the Senate Government Operations Committee.


Blue Ribbon Panel on Ranked Choice Voting

Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy has formed a Blue Ribbon Review Panel to provide input and feedback as we proceed with writing the voting protocols for carrying out a ranked choice (or instant runoff) election as called for in the newly revised Pierce County Charter. It is important to establish an open and transparent rulemaking process. The ultimate goal is to create a successful Ranked Choice Voting System in Pierce County that will be sustainable.

The tentative schedule of meetings is as follows:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

These meetings will be held at the Pierce County Election Center located at 3009 South 36th Street in Tacoma from 6 pm to 8 pm. The public is welcome to attend.

The members of the panel are:

Cathy Brewis, Tacoma News Tribune
Patty Rose, Pierce County Labor Council
Kevin Phelps, Landmark Convention Center
Nathe Lawver, Pierce County Democratic Party
Deryl McCarty, Pierce County Republican Party
Ruth Bennett, Libertarian Party of Washington State
Barbara Seitle, League of Women Voters of Washington
Dennis Jones, Pierce County Veterans Advisory Council
Katie Blinn, Office of Secretary of State
Jeff Even, Office of Attorney General
Chris Ensor, Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities


Sunday, February 11, 2007

2005 Primary Election Allocated Costs for Pierce County

SB 6000 and its companion HB 2202 will allow cities and other local taxing entities to use IRV to elect their officials and eliminate their primary. For comparison, we show below the allocated costs from the last primary for these entities.

The total allocated cost for the entire county including all jurisdictions was $664,704.00.

Pierce County ----------$257,647.45
City of Bonney Lake -------$5,131.68
City of Buckley -------------$1,572.44
City of Dupont -------------$1,583.39
City of Edgewood ---------$4,090.27

City of Gig Harbor --------$2,790.43
City of Lakewood ---------$18,476.76
City of Milton --------------$2,194.97
City of Orting --------------$1,630.44
City of Sumner ------------$3,077.21

City of Tacoma -----------$64,052.26
Town of Wilkeson -----------$188.82
SD01 Steilacoom -----------$6,211.12
SD10 Tacoma ------------$69,100.81
SD320 Sumner -----------$14,491.54

Fire Dist. #2 --------------$19,474.36
Fire Dist. #6 --------------$49,991.21
Fire Dist. #15 --------------$2,705.36
Fire Dist. #16 --------------$6,184.05
Fire Dist. #17 --------------$3,711.98

Fire Dist. #18 --------------$2,362.52
Fire Dist. #21 -------------$16,580.17
Key Peninsula Parks ------$6,184.05
Metro. Parks Tacoma ---$65,101.41

Please note that Pierce County's charge was due to the Charter Review Commission races. With the change in the charter, there will no longer be a primary for these races. Thus, the county will not be sharing in the cost allocation in the future.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

House Bill 2202 - IRV option for cities and local taxing entities

House Bill 2202 has been introduced. It will give cities and other local taxing entities in Pierce County the option to use IRV to elect their officials. This bill is the companion bill to Senate Bill 6000 introduced on Thursday.

The bill would allow cities and other local taxing entities in other counties to use IRV if their auditor acquired the software to count the votes. However, at this time, only Pierce County is working on acquiring the software.

See http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2202&year=2007


Friday, February 09, 2007

Senate Bill 6000: IRV for cities and local taxing entities

Recently introduced Senate Bill 6000 would allow cities and local taxing entities (such as school districts, park districts and fire districts) to use ranked choice voting such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). This bill gives these entities the choice. It is not a mandate.

This bill is specifically aimed at local jurisdictions in Pierce County where the County Auditor is already working on acquiring the software required to count IRV ballots. It would not be expected that these entities would be able to make the shift until the 2009 elections.

This bill does NOT affect state or federal level elections. As a result, we expect the House companion bill to go to the Local Government Committee of the House for review. The House companion bill will be getting its number on Monday or Tuesday of the coming week.

The bill would allow these jurisdictions to eliminate their primaries and save the cost of that election. The aggregate cost of the last primary for these jurisdictions was $650,000, so the potential cost savings are substantial.

See http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=6000


The Moderate Washingtonian weighs in on Grange proposal

The Moderate Washingtonian blog advises the Grange to save their money on lobbying for non-partisan state elections and support IRV.

We hope the Grange follows their advice.


Senator Fairley: Grange proposal won't get votes

The Seattle Times article on the new Grange bill on non-partisan state elections quotes Senator Fairley, Chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, as saying "there is no way this can pass, so why should I even hold a hearing."


Washblog: The Grange should promote IRV

The political blog, Washblog, read about the Grange's new non-partisan state elections bill and was unimpressed. The opinion of the blogger was the Grange should give up on non-partisan elections and push for IRV.

This is an opinion which I have expressed to the Grange folks. So far, they have not decided to join the cause, but we can still hope for the best. They would certainly be welcome within the effort to move from the current system to Instant Runoff Voting.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Local Jurisdictions to save money and improve elections

Local jurisdictions in Pierce County would gain the opportunity to save money on elections as well as have more voters participate in all parts of the process if the Washington State Legislature passes the local jurisdiction IRV bill currently under consideration.


In the state of Washington, local jurisdictions such as cities, school districts, and park districts elect their officials during odd-numbered years using a top two system. This means that if there are more than two candidates who sign up to run for a particular position, then the county auditor must run a primary to reduce the field down to two candidates in the general election. When the local jurisdiction has a primary, it must share in the costs of the primary election.

For example, the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma is governed by elected Commissioners. In 2005, one of the Commissioner seats had three candidates sign up to run. As a result, at an allocated cost of $65,000 to the Park District the Pierce County Auditor's office ran a primary election to reduce the field to two. The ultimate winner of the seat received over 60% of the vote in the primary.

Proposed Legislation

State legislators are considering a bill which would allow local jurisdictions such as the Metropolitian Park District to eliminate the costs of primaries through the use of Instant Runoff Voting.

Of course, since more voters participate in the general elections already, more voters would be participating in the entire process of selecting the officials if the entire election occurred in the general election.

Pierce County jurisdictions would be able to leverage the investment in IRV software being made by the Auditor's office to implement IRV for county level officials. This legislation would be a win-win for Pierce County voters and taxpayers.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Instant Runoff Voting wins makes the press

Steven Hill writes in the Washington Free Press about the passage of the IRV Charter Amendment in Pierce County as well as the passage of three other IRV propositions around the country. The 2006 elections saw IRV be the most successful electoral reform in the country.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Takoma Park, Maryland holds their first IRV election

Takoma Park, Maryland held their first ever IRV election on January 30, 2007 to fill a vacancy on the City Council. The Baltimore Chronicle reports that 90% of the voters found IRV easy to use and wanted its use expanded.