Friday, December 05, 2008

Novoselic Testimony in State Senate

by Krist Novoselic

This is a transcript of Novoselic's testimony on December 5 before the Washington State Senate Government Operations Committee.

My name is Krist Novoselic. In community organizations I am Chairman of the Wahkiakum County Democratic Party and Master of the Grays River Grange. I am speaking today as Chairman of FairVote - The Center for Voting and Democracy.

FairVote is a national organization advocating reforms such as universal voter registration, direct election of the president and Ranked Choice Voting. This year we helped pass Ranked Choice in Memphis, Tennessee and Telluride, Colorado. We were also very active in a campaign for the proportional voting version of Ranked Choice in Cincinnati, Ohio. FairVote supported the 2006 Charter Amendment 3 campaign - Ranked Choice Voting for Pierce County.

Our organization works with local reform efforts all over the nation in a good faith that our democratic process can be better. We believe that uncontested and uncompetitive elections are at the root of poor voter turnout. Voting is the basic interface between the citizen and their government. Greater voter participation opens the door to involvement in other aspects of our democratic system.

While Ranked Choice Voting is a new experience for Pierce County voters, it has a long history in the United States. It stood among progressive era reforms like the direct election of United States senators, Universal Suffrage, direct primaries, and the initiative process. Ranked Choice, also known as preferential voting, Instant Runoff Voting and Single Transferable Vote has withstood the scrutiny of the federal courts.

Ranked Choice voting, like used in Pierce County, is a majoritarian election system. It is a variation of the multiple round voting used in electing officers in an organization. But instead of distributing multiple ballots, voters rank their preference on a single ballot.

Traditional multi-round elections like used in many private organizations is impractical in public elections - there could be three or more elections until a majority winner. The benefit of the ranking candidates is multi-round elections can be done on one ballot.

The 2006 Ranked Choice campaign in Pierce promised more choices for voters, greater participation and less negative campaigning. We also promised voters to pick the person and not the party while at the same time protect the associational rights of political organizations.

Advocates of Ranked Choice are satisfied that our promise was kept for voters.

The debut of Ranked Choice was in an extraordinary election. There was record turnout in Washington State. I am grateful to all of Washington's election officials for their outstanding work. I want to make a special mention to Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy. Auditor McCarthy and her staff presided over three elections - mail ballot, polling place and Ranked Choice. They did a good job all around while Pierce County reached over 81% voter turnout.

The Ranked Choice Voting experience can only get better in Pierce County and it holds great potential for other jurisdictions in our state.

Western Washington University and the University of Washington are collaborating on a study of the Pierce County Ranked Choice experience.

There is also an effort in Pierce County government to move its elections to odd numbered years. This way the county elections can be more attuned to municipal elections and let voters concentrate on state and federal elections in even years.

The 2008 election is one for the record books. And Pierce County also made history with the first Ranked Choice voting election in 21st Century Washington.

We feel that Ranked Choice will work even better in the future. Mid-term elections traditionally have a lower turnout voter turnout. The single Ranked Choice election will compare better to mostly redundant and low turnout primaries.

Ranked Choice Voting has great potential in our state and is growing in our nation. Washingtonians need to be proud of Pierce County for leading our democracy toward elections with more choices, positive campaigning and greater participation.

Thank you.

Krist Novoselic - Chairman: FairVote, the Center For Voting and Democracy.
Olympia Washington, December 5, 2008



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