Sunday, December 30, 2007

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.

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Will Ron Paul carry the state of Washington's GOP delegates?

Bloggers note: While this blog is not about Presidential politics, this posting is necessary background for another posting.

Dr. Ron Paul is the only candidate for the Republican nomination for President who could schedule a rally in downtown Seattle open to the public, have over 1000 people show up to listen to him speak, and get applause at the end of the speech. Any other GOP candidate would have protesters booing him throughout any rally.

Paul supporters in the state of Washington are organizing to win the 40 GOP delegates to the National Convention for their candidate. They are showing up to vote in straw polls. They are organizing to become Precinct Committee Officers and attend the caucuses in February. They are registering to vote in the primary as well. Ron Paul is bringing more people into the Republican Party. In short, his supporters are running a campaign in the state unlike any other GOP campaign in the state.

There are several Paul Meetup groups around the state. The only GOP candidate with signs around the state is Paul. The Paul campaign is organizing a New Years rally in Olympia to support their candidate. The Paul campaign raised more money in the state of Washington than any other Republican Presidential contender during the third quarter of 2007. Given his massive increase in fundraising during the fourth quarter this is likely to be true for the fourth quarter as well.

Paul is the only potential Republican nominee who would have a chance of carrying the state in the general election. Many Washington voters would consider voting for Paul over Clinton for example. The Iraq war is very unpopular in the state and Paul's anti-war stance is quite popular relative to Clinton.

Will Ron Paul win those 40 delegates? Most of the Washington Republican Party establishment oppose Paul. There are stories of GOP district leaders preventing Paul supporters from becoming precinct committee officers. There are stories of GOP county chairmen being concerned with all of these young people showing up to their meetings and wanting to participate. There is some resentment between the GOP party faithful and Paul supporters.

So the big question is who will show up at the caucuses and who will show up at the polls. There seems to be good enthusiasm for the Paul candidacy in the state of Washington, but it remains to be seen how folks who are new to politics follow through.

After that there are more questions. What will all of the Paul supporters do after the caucus and primary are over? How will they react if the Republican establishment successfully beats them back? Will they join the Libertarian Party which is welcoming them? Will some of them run for state or local office? As Republicans or as Libertarians? These newcomers to the political process are wild cards and no one knows how this will come out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Democrats Will Offer Choice in Pierce County Executive Race

Ranked Choice Voting in Pierce County allows the Democrats and the Republicans to choose which candidates can appear on the general election ballot with their label. As Bob Perez of Vaughn notes in his letter to the editor on December 19, the Pierce County Democrats have decided to allow up to three candidates on the ballot using their label in RCV election.

From a practical perspective, this means that both County Councilmember Calvin Goings and Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy will appear on the general election ballot as Democrats. This allows the voters to make the choices amongst these two strong candidates. This is a victory for the voters. Congratulations to the Democrats!

Party insiders report that Goings and McCarthy will be recommending "the other Democrat" as voters' second choice. In other words, Goings will recommend that voters select him as their first choice and McCarthy as their second choice and vice versa. If the candidates do this and the voters accept their recommendations, then the Democrats should do quite well in the race.

Currently, it appears as if there will be two Democrats (Goings and McCarthy), one Republican (County Councilmember Shawn Bunney) and one Independent (Tacoma City Councilmember Mike Lonergan) on the November ballot. Congratulations to the Democrats for giving the voters more choices.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tacoma News Tribune wants you to rank your choices!

Bloggers note: While it is true that the News Tribune is asking readers to rank news stories, the rest of this piece is a spoof.

The Tacoma News Tribune asks you to "Click on the ballot, rank your top 10 and click 'submit'."

The readers of the News Tribune are being asked to rank the year's top news stories with only 11 words of voter education! This huge underinvestment in voter education has come at a cost.

A phone bank has been set up and all Christmas vacation at the News Tribune has been cancelled to deal with the massive number of phone calls to the office asking for assistance in how fill out the ballot.

The News Tribune will be publishing a twenty-five page explanatory insert in Sunday's paper to help its readers with ranking the top news stories in Pierce County. TV and radio ads will start on Monday with Dave Seago and Dave Zeeck giving demonstrations on how to fill out your ballot.

The Democrats and Republicans are VERY concerned that voters will be confused by so many stories on the ballot. The two major parties announced that the debates on this subject should be limited to just two stories since voters would be confused by seeing any more stories represented in the debate.

The Greens demanded to know why global warming, endangered species and a monorail to Fox Island are not on the list of stories. Ron Paul supporters want to know why his campaign raising $6 million in one day isn't on the list of stories. The Libertarians want to know if the News Tribune received a government subsidy to do this survey.

Robert Hill wants to be able to vote for self-gratification as a top 10 news story. Calvin Goings has put up a sign on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge announcing his plan to be the winning story in 2008!

Asking readers to rank stories will confuse voters no end. We suggest they delay implementation until 2010.

Happy Holidays.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

King County considers Ranked Choice Voting

On December 10, 2007, Kelly Haughton and Professor Richard Anderson-Connolly testified on behalf of Ranked Choice Voting before the King County Charter Review Commission's Governmental Structure Subcommittee. Haughton and Anderson-Connolly recommended putting a charter amendment on the 2008 ballot to implement ranked choice voting for county level officials in King County.

Below is a summary of their comments before the Commission.

1) How it works

Anderson-Connolly showed an educational video aimed at voters from the San Francisco's Election Department. San Francisco has been using Ranked Choice Voting since 2004 for their municipal elections. In 2007, they elected their Mayor using Ranked Choice Voting.

2) Benefits

a) Voter Satisfaction

All surveys of voters using ranked choice voting in the US show they prefer ranked choice voting to their previous system. On the other hand, the Washington Secretary of State's office reports it has received more complaints about the pick-a-party primary system than any other thing they have done in the history of the office. Further, the Secretary of State's office reports that only 21% of the voters thought the pick-a-party system was OK.

We recommended King County shift the election of its county level officials from an election system (pick-a-party primary) which voters do not like to one which voters do like.

b) Majority Winners

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to list their second and third choices. If no candidate receives a majority of the first choices, the Ranked Choice Voting system moves towards finding the candidate with majority support.

c) Concentrate Decision Making in High Turnout General

By consolidating the primary and general election into one election, all voters participating in the high turnout election are participating in both narrowing down the set of candidates and selecting the majority winner. It is healthy for democracy to have more voters participating in all steps.

The August primary has very low turnout due to voter fatigue and disgust with the system. Consolidating its functionality into the general helps deal with both of these problems.

d) Equitable Treatment of Candidates

State law discriminates against independents and minor party candidates. By making the ballot access requirements for major party, minor party and independent candidates all the same plus putting them all directly on the general election ballot, King County can level the playing field.

In addition, the Ranked Choice Voting system allows voters to list independents and minor party candidates as their first choices without the spoiler effect coming into play.

e) Potential Reduced mudslinging

In some jurisdictions where they are now using Ranked Choice Voting, candidates are campaigning and fundraising together. This has included joint mailings to voters. This appears to be the result of a desire to receive second choice votes.

3) Why King County?

a) Charter County

King County is a charter county. The Washington State Constitution allows charter counties flexibility in selecting how to elect their officials. It was through this provision that Pierce County was able to adopt Ranked Choice Voting to elect its county level officials.

b) Odd-Year Elections

King County elects its county level officials in odd-numbered years. During these years, the only pick-a-party primary races in King County are the county level officials. Thus, King County can eliminate the usage of the pick-a-party primary every other year. For some precincts in the county, this may mean there will be no races on the ballot in August. This could result in cost savings for the county.

c) Local Option

The State Legislature is considering a bill which would give local jurisdictions such as cities, school districts, port districts, etc. the option to use ranked choice voting to elect their officials. Given that King County would be using ranked choice voting to elect its county level officials in odd-numbered years at the same time local jurisdictions are electing their officials, there are strong possibilities for synergies and cost savings if King County were to adopt Ranked Choice Voting.

4) Why Now?

a) Pierce County voters reject delay 2-1

Pierce County voters were given the option to delay implementation of Ranked Choice Voting and 67% of the voters voted No on delay. Why? The voters are ready for a change. King County voters want change as well.

b) Only Opponents of RCV in Favor of Delay

Really the only people who favor delay of Ranked Choice Voting are those who do not want to implement it at all. The voters want change. Ranked Choice Voting for King County can really only be implemented through the Charter Review process. Waiting for the next Charter Review Commission is not wise. It misses the opportunity to allow voters to change from a system they don't like to one they will.

We encourage the King County Charter Review Commission to put a proposed charter amendment on the 2008 ballot which would implement Ranked Choice Voting in King County in 2011.

King County has the opportunity to take a leadership position in the state. It is time for the county to step forward.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

McCarthy joins the Pierce County Executive race

Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy has joined the race for County Executive. This is exciting for the voters of Pierce County since we now have four well qualified candidates for County Executive in the first year of using ranked choice voting.

With the four candidates who have already announced (Shawn Bunney (R), Calvin Goings (D), Mike Lonergan (I) and McCarthy (D)), it becomes quite likely that no candidate will receive more than 50% of the first choice votes. This means it will be important for candidates to go after both the first choices of voters, but also the second choices.

In particular, it seems likely that McCarthy will want to get voters who are planning to choose Goings as their first choice, to select her as their second choice. And vice versa. Meanwhile, Bunney and Lonergan will be trying to break into that mix.

Likewise, there will be Lonergan supporters looking at who their second choice will be. Will Goings go after those voters? How about Bunney and McCarthy?

It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the amount of negative campaigning amongst the candidates. We can always hope.