Friday, April 27, 2007

More Voter Choice

Another candidate has announced he is going to run for Jack Fabulich's Port Commission seat. This brings the total to four announced candidates. This will result in greater voter choice. As a Pierce County voter, Hooray!

Too bad the Port can't use ranked choice voting so that the November general election voters won't be able to choose from all of the candidates.

Too bad the Port can't use ranked choice voting to eliminate the primary and its associated expenses.

Let's hope the State Legislature passes SB 6000 in their 2008 session.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Election system to cost Tacoma Port District

The Port of Tacoma Commission seat currently held by retiring Jack Fabulich is attracting candidates. Most voters would think of more choice on the ballot as a good thing. However, the Port District is looking at a big bill for an unneccesary election.

With the current system for electing non-partisan officials in the state of Washington, any time a race attracts more than two candidates, the Auditor is required to hold a primary. Primaries cost money. For a district such the Port of Tacoma, the expense is likely to be in excess of $200,000.

How could the Port District save this expense without discouraging candidates from running? With the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting such as being used by county level officials in Pierce County, the Port District could eliminate the primary and save the expense.

Unfortunately, the Port currently does not have this option. It requires enabling state legislation to allow the Port the option to save this money. Let's hope the legislature passes this enabling legislation in its next session.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

King County Charter Review meeting on April 24

The King County Charter Review Commission will be holding its next meeting on April 24.

Charter Review Commission second meeting
Seattle Municipal Tower
40th Floor
Conference Rooms 4050/4060
700 - 5th AvenueSeattle, WA 98104
5:30-7:30 pm

Ranked Choice Voting advocates are encouraged to attend and voice their support for Pierce County style reform of King County elections.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pierce County Blue Ribbon Review Panel on Ranked Choice Voting

At the first meeting of the Pierce County Blue Ribbon Panel on Ranked Choice Voting on April 11, Auditor Pat McCarthy outlined the agenda for the panel and introduced the members of her staff and the members of the panel.

The four major discussion topics for the panel to cover will be:

1) Candidate filing (and ballot access)

2) Hardware/Software changes related to RCV

- Ballot design and voter instructions
- Election setup

3) Vote by mail/polling place considerations

- Postage
- Envelope design
- Pros and cons

4) Education and outreach

The panel will be discussing candidate filing at the April 25, 2007 meeting. The staff presented three scenarios for consideration:

Scenario No. 1 - Accept all filings "as is"

- Candidates self designate their party on their filing form
- Pay the filing fee
- Submit signature petition

Scenario No. 2 - Each major party approves their candidates prior to filing week

- Candidates must follow a pre-determined protocol for party approval prior to filing for office
- Pay the filing fee
- Submit signature petition

Scenario No. 3 - Each major party approves their candidates after filing week

- Candidates self designate their party on their filing form
- Pay the filing fee
- Submit signature petition
- The Auditor transmits a list of candidates to each major party for approval

The panel is requested to consider these three scenarios and be prepared to discuss at the next meeting.

Additional topics:

In the charter, there is a filing requirement of 25 signatures for all candidates regardless of party. In addition, minor party and independent candidates are nominated by nominating conventions as set forth by state law.

The intent of the authors of the Amendment to the Charter was that minor party and independent candidates would only need to collect the 25 signatures in their nominating convention and be able to use those signatures to satisfy the signature requirement for filing. This seems like the only fair interpretation of the Charter, but there seemed to be some confusion at the meeting.

The Charter explicitly gives the major parties the right to allow multiple candidates for each county level office on the ballot using their name. It seems only appropriate to allow minor parties to nominate multiple candidates for the ballot as well. This would be consistent with the RCV philosophy of providing more voter choice on the ballot.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

King County Charter Review Commission meeting on April 24

The King County Charter Review Commission met on March 27, 2007. The presentation made to the Commission listed some areas for review. One potential area missing from the presentation was the possibility of moving the election of county level officials to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) (or Ranked Choice Voting). We hope some commissioners will look into this possibility.

The next meeting of the Commission will be April 24.

Seattle Municipal Tower
40th Floor Conference Rooms
700 - 5th AvenueSeattle, WA 98104
5:30-7:30 pm

The public is welcome to attend.

It appears from the material posted on their website that public outreach and public comment will happen in May and June.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pierce County Executive - The Democrats

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

Calvin Goings became the first person to announce his candidacy for Pierce County Executive in December. Goings is a second term member of the County Council and is unable to run for re-election in 2008 due to term limits. Goings is out campaigning hard already. He is lining up endorsements and raising money. His campaign strategy appears to be to box out other Democrats.

County Auditor Pat McCarthy is widely seen as positioning herself to run for Executive in 2008. Since she just won re-election as Auditor in 2006, she has a free run for Executive. She is the only potential candidate who has run countywide in previous races. This countywide name recognition gives McCarthy a significant advantage in a wide open race. It is expected that McCarthy will wait until early 2008 to announce her candidacy. She has to run the 2007 elections plus get ready to implement IRV for 2008, so it makes good sense for her to wait to announce.

Another rumored candidate is State Senator Jim Kastama. Kastama has had a solid record in the state legislature, but has never held county level office. Kastama has never run for any office countywide. While it is still early, Kastama may be scared away by the big field of solid candidates for this office.

One other factor which could discourage a Kastama candidacy for County Executive is his State Senate term expires at the end of 2008 and if he loses the race he is out of a job. At this point, a Kastama race for re-election might make more sense. On the other hand, County Executive pays better than State Senator.

This is a strong set of potential candidates for the Democrats. Certainly they seem to match the potential Republican candidates well. The voters are likely to have some great choices for County Executive in 2008.


Massachusetts finds Top 2 wanting

Massachusetts uses a Top-2 election system to fill vacancies in Congress. In Massachusetts, Congressional districts are generally one-party districts, so the winner of the election has a job for life, similar to Jim McDermott in the state of Washington.

Since this is a lifetime job, there will be many people signing up to run for this position. In the case of a Democratic district, there will be many Democrats signing up to run.

Ryan O'Donnell writes in the Boston Globe,

"In the current case, too, because of the sheer quantity of candidates, someone could win the Democratic primary with a low percentage of the vote. With a large field, it's conceivable that as many as 70 percent of primary voters could cast ballots for someone other than the winner. If turnout is low, the number of people who cast a meaningful vote is even lower. That just isn't good for democracy.

There are a couple of ways to prevent mass fragmentation of the vote. The first would be to limit the number of candidates, but that is as anti democratic as a non majority winner. The second would be to hold a runoff between the top two voter getters, but that would cost a pretty penny and see even worse turnout in the second round.

The best way is to fill the vacancy, and all future vacancies, using a method that is increasingly popular all over the country. Instant-runoff voting, adopted in cities from Burlington, Vt., to Minneapolis to San Francisco, allows voters to rank their candidates in order of choice. If one candidate gets a majority of first choices, the race is over. If not, the lowest vote-getter is knocked off, and ballots cast for that candidate are added to the totals of the candidate ranked next on each ballot. The process repeats until a majority winner emerges. Just like a traditional runoff."

Of course, we are working on putting in place a similar system in Pierce County.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Arkansas Extends Use of IRV

In the state of Arkansas, military voters who are stationed overseas are sent one instant runoff ballot so that they can participate in both the general election and any runoff. This allows these military voters to vote without slowing down the process for elections officials in Arkansas.

Recently, the Arkansas state legislature passed HB 1509 which extends the use of instant runoff voting to all overseas voters. Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels issued a press release praising the state legislature for passing HB 1509 since it allows more voters to vote in a timely way and relieves the time pressure on elections officials.

"Act 261 (HB 1509) sponsored by Representatives Horace Hardwick and Jeff Wood, and Senator Ed Wilkinson will allow all overseas citizens to cast an instant runoff ballot at the same time as his or her regular ballot. This protects overseas citizens’ right to vote in a runoff when the absentee ballot turnaround time is often tight. Rep. Hardwick sponsored similar legislation in 2005 providing instant runoff voting to active duty military personnel stationed overseas."

No one in Arkansas voiced concerns about military voters being confused by the ballots. No one in Arkansas voiced concerns about the other overseas voters being confused either. It seems like state officials in Arkansas believe in their voters. Some elections officials in the state of Washington seem to believe the voters of Washington are not as smart as the voters of Arkansas.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

League of Women Voters in Vermont

Catherine Rader, President of the League of Women Voters in Vermont, has come out in favor of using IRV to elect Vermont's single representative in Congress. After watching the success in Burlington for the Mayor's race, she is convinced that this is the best way to hold their Congressional election.