Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Secretary of State's office's testimony on Senate Bill 6000

Below is a transcription of Katie Blinn's testimony before the Senate Government Operations Committee on Senate Bill 6000 on February 26, 2007. Blinn was representing the Secretary of State's office on this matter.

In addition, there were some questions of Blinn by the committee members. These questions and her answers will be covered in a separate posting.

Within Blinn's testimony, there are links to comments on her testimony in a separate posting.

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the Committee. I am Katie Blinn from the Secretary of State's office. I will try to be brief. IRV or Ranked Choice Voting has historically been promoted as a way to make sure candidates are elected with a majority. Current law already allows that for nonpartisan offices because only two candidates go on to the general election. So if there are only two on the ballot, one of them does get a majority.

One of the other reasons why this bill is being promoted is because it relieves jurisdictions from having to pay for a primary, but again current law already allows that when only one or two people has filed for office; (in this situation) there is no primary and just the one or two candidates goes on to the general election, so the jurisdiction does not have to pay for a primary.

We are very concerned about the amount of voter confusion that is going to occur in Pierce County in 2008. Voters there will be voting three different ways during the 2008 election season. They will be voting the traditional method for nonpartisan offices and ballot measures. They will be voting the pick-a-party primary for state and federal partisan offices. And now voting IRV for local partisan offices. And you have heard quite a bit this year about how much voter confusion we already have for the pick-a-party primary.

One of the other concerns is for districts that cross county lines. There are a number of districts that cross county lines into either King County or Thurston County and actually there is a place where Pierce and Lewis actually touch up in the mountains. And, then finally, just logistically a number of sections which seem outside the title.

But, I am sorry, I did not finish my thought with regards districts that cross county lines. In districts, like a school district, part in King and part in Pierce, the voters in King will be voting the traditional way and have a primary and the voters in Pierce will not and that seems a little odd for within the same jurisdiction.

That is all I have.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Swing District Attracting Candidates

In 2004, Pierce County Council District #3 saw the closest ever County Council race with challenger Roger Bush (R) ousting incumbent Kevin Wimsett (D) 51%-49%. Wimsett has since moved out of the district, but two other Democrats are eying the seat for 2008. Helen Myrick and Bruce Lachney are considering a race for the seat.

In addition, Libertarian Party State Chair Ruth Bennett has been talking about recruiting a candidate to run in this race as the district has voted for libertarian issues heavily in the past.

During the campaign for instant runoff voting in 2006, there was speculation about the impact of IRV on the number of candidates. Thus far, due to a variety of circumstances, there is more interest in running for office in 2008 at the county level than in years. The result: more voter choice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pierce County Executive - The Republicans

This is the first in a series of three postings on the 2008 Pierce County Executive race. This posting covers the Republican candidates. The second posting will cover the Democratic candidates and potential candidates. The third will cover the independent and Libertarian potential candidates.

For more information about the County Executive race, see here.

In the first Instant Runoff contest in the state of Washington, the Republicans promise to have two very solid candidates in the race: Pierce County Councilmembers Shawn Bunney and Terry Lee. We begin by outlining the backgrounds of the two candidates. Then we go on to discuss the potential strategies of the two candidates given the IRV nature of the race.

Shawn Bunney represents the 1st County Council District which covers eastern Pierce County. Bunney was just re-elected for a second term with no opposition. Bunney raised a fair amount of money which he plans to roll over into a County Executive campaign since he did not have to spend any money in 2006.

Bunney has the advantage of a free ride in 2008. If he loses, he will continue to have a job being on the County Council. Bunney is popular in his district, but has never run for a countywide position, thus he has limited countywide name recognition at this point. However, he was Chair of the County Council last year and received some name recognition for that.

Terry Lee represents the 7th County Council District which includes Gig Harbor and University Place. Lee was just re-elected in 2006 without opposition. We don't know much about Lee's fundraising capability.

Lee, also, has the advantage of a free ride in 2008 since his County Council term extends to 2010. In January, 2007, Lee was selected County Council Chair and will likely get some name recognition from that.

Lee is very well liked in the 7th District, but has never run for countywide office before. Attaining countywide name recognition will be a task for Lee's campaign.

For a Republican to win the County Executive race, he will have to win a majority of votes in both the 1st and 7th County Council Districts. Having a strong candidate from each of those districts can only help the Republicans.

My guess is that Bunney's second favorite candidate in the race will be Lee and vice versa. Considering that each of them has a free ride in this race, it makes quite a bit of sense for both of them to run. One can even imagine Bunney and Lee sending out joint campaign mailers to save money. One should not expect much negative campaigning between the two of these candidates. Reagan's commandment "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican" will probably be obeyed in this race.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Pierce County Executive race heats up - more voter choice

Pierce County Councilmember Terry Lee is planning on running for County Executive in 2008 according to a recent article in the Tacoma News Tribune. Lee joins fellow County Councilmembers Calvin Goings and Shawn Bunney. Independent Tacoma City Councilman Mike Lonergan is also contemplating joining the race.

In addition, it is speculated that Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy and State Senator Jim Kastama might run as Democrats and Tacoma attorney John Mills might run as a Libertarian.

Having five or six candidates on the general election ballot for County Executive would provide the first big test for partisan IRV in the country. Since it would be unlikely that any one candidate would receive over 50% of the first choice votes, candidates will need to conduct more positive campaigns rather than tearing down their opponent. We hope that the campaign becomes more of a discussion of the issues and candidates' credentials than the normal mudslinging match.

Let's hear it for more voter choice! Let's hear it for positive campaigns!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Senator Fairley won't allow vote on SB 6000

At the last meeting of the Senate Government Operations Committee, SB 6000's prime sponsor Senator Swecker asked the Chair of the Committee for an executive session and a vote on the bill. Senator Fairley adjourned the Committee meeting without a vote. This is unfortunate since it appeared that Senator Swecker had the votes to pass the bill out of committee.

As a result of this SB 6000 is dead for this session of the legislature. We will have a chance to revive the bill in the 2008 session if we desire to do so.