Monday, September 01, 2008

2008 Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer race

For more information about the Assessor-Treasurer race, see here.

The Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer race in November 2008 is non-partisan and features six candidates which is the most of any Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) race in the county. In order of their appearance on the ballot, the candidates are Dale Washam, Terry Lee, Jan Shabro, Bernardo Tuma, Barbara Gelman and Beverly Davidson. For comments on why each of the candidates are running, see Why?

Several of the candidates have sufficient name recognition and/or qualifications to gain significant first choice vote totals. None of the candidates has raised sufficient funds to do a countywide mailing to likely voters. The race is likely to be highly affected by the quality of the candidates' voter pamphlet statements.

It is likely that no candidate will receive a majority of the first choices of the voters. This is the type of race where candidates have different campaign strategies with RCV than Top-2.

Saving your resources for the General Election

In Top-2 races, there was a primary in August and all but two candidates have been eliminated. In this type of system, we would have seen quite a bit of campaigning in the Assessor-Treasurer race during June, July and August with the candidates trying to be one of the two who makes it through the primary into the general election.

Since this race is an RCV election, there was no primary and all of the candidates move directly to the general election. While there was a bit of campaigning this summer, we didn't see a single yard sign for the Assessor-Treasurer race before the primary. Some candidates noted in their responses to questions, that they had postponed the heavy campaigning in the race until the fall since there was no primary.

To Win, You Need a Majority

In an RCV race, voters are allowed to list their second and third choices as well as their first choice. Davidson, Lee, Shabro and Washam all want as many first choices as possible, but are also asking for second and third choices as well. When asked if he was campaigning for second choices, Lee stated "I sure am, with 6 candidates it's unlikely any candidate will get a simple majority on first count."

If no candidate receives a majority of the first choices in a RCV race, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and those votes go to the second choices on their ballots. If a candidate receives a majority of the votes in this round, that candidate wins. If no candidate has a majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the process is repeated. In the Assessor-Treasurer race, it is likely that we will need three or more rounds of counting before the winner is determined.

Positive vs. Negative Campaigning

All of the candidates in the Assessor-Treasurer race who answered our questionaire are focused on getting positive messages out about their qualifications for this office. Tearing down one of the other candidates is not the best way to get a majority of voters to vote for you in this race. In fact, some candidates were willing to tell us their second choice.


In the Assessor-Treasurer race, we are seeing some straightforward changes in campaign strategy due to the RCV nature of the race. Conserving resources until the general election, asking for second and third choices and positive campaigning for the candidate rather than negative campaigning against one opponent are in evidence thus far.



At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Robert Hill said...

Although RCV works in small jurisdictions, it is not the only implementation of a proportional representation for executive branch races.

While an RCV/IRV ballot-page empowers the voter by directly expressing their preferences, an alternative system called "Post-Election Candidate Convention" exists which can be more widely, and inexpensively, applied to other races.

Imagine all six candidates meeting at the Elections office from 9-5 on the Saturday after certification of election results. All six know what order that are in, where they are ranked; none has a majority. And then each of them convinces the other 5 to transfer all or a fraction of their votes to them.

This process is similar to the Electoral College, for President, where a delegated body of individuals, for a state, meets to cast votes on behalf of one, or more, candidates.

This process is cleaner, and public, and more transparent than a $600,000 software module from Sequoia, to do the job.

I challenge people to bring forth objections to this way of electing people from a November ballot, where there ALSO is no having a Primary election to weed candidates out prematurely.

-Mr. Robert Hill-


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