Tuesday, April 22, 2008

King County Charter Review Commission and RCV

Editor's Note: Joe Szwaja and others testified before the Commission in an effort to get RCV in King County similar to what Pierce County has. Here is his report.

Hi folks this is to let you know that last night we won a modest but significant victory on the road to opening up our voting system to more voices and choices through using Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also known as Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in King County. The King County Charter Review Commission, a group of citizens appointed every 10 years to recommend changes in the County's Charter, voted 16-1 to ask the King County Council to form a citizens task force to investigate whether we should put an initiative in support of IRV for County Elections of the ballot in King County. The recommendation is for the citizens's task force to be convened in January 2010 and to make a recommendation about the advisability of an IRV initiative by the end of the year.

Of course, we would have preferred something much stronger, we were urging the commission to recommend adoption of IRV right away due its many advantages, including ensuring the election of a true majority, encouraging greater voter turnout, reducing negative campaigning, allowing people to vote their hopes rather than their fears by eliminating the "spoiler" factor, and saving pubic dollars by combining the primary and general election into a single contest.

Still, the commissions' vote was a significant victory for electoral reform, their initial recommendation had been to essentially do nothing- take no action of IRV and to simply wait and see what happens in Pierce County where IRV will be used for the first time this year after a successful pubic vote. Our public testimony affirmed the fact that IRV has been used successfully around the country and around the world for decades and demonstrated broad public support for a system that offers much greater choice. The fact that IRV had more support during the Commission's pubic hearings than any other issue by far was recognized in their discussion last night; clearly it was what turned the tide in favor of the commission voting to give IRV more specific consideration. About 30 people testified during the 4 public hearings, including a large number of young people, and dozens wrote letters as well. Thanks much to all of you who participated!

There is much more work to be done, including educating the members of the King County Council about the merits of IRV. We gained a lot of support and educated a lot of people during the public hearing process. Let's savor this small but significant victory and keep our poitive momentum going to have an effective citizen's advisory group that will recommend putting IRV on the ballot in King County.

Joe Szwaja
Vice President Instant Runoff Voting of Washignton


Monday, April 21, 2008

Democrats and Libertarians Weigh in on Top 2 (and RCV)

In 2008, the voters of the state of Washington will see change in the November ballot. Aside from the Presidential race which has its own set of rules, voters will see at most two candidates for all statewide races, Congressional races and state legislative races. Yes, the voters have voted to limit themselves to at most two choices in November. State Democratic Party Chair, Dwight Pelz, has issued a statement lamenting this fact.

The Chair of the Libertarian Party of Washington, Scott Lindsley, has issued a statement saying the Libertarians like Pierce County's Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) better than the top 2. Voters in Pierce County are likely to see more than two candidates in the county level RCV races. One race already has four announced candidates and another has three. All of these candidates will appear on the general election ballot. There will be more voter choice in Pierce County in November than anywhere else in the state.

It makes sense that the Libertarians want more choice on the ballot in November because they are likely to be excluded from being on the November ballot in top 2 elections. It is interesting that the Democrats are voicing concern about limiting the choices to just two in November. It makes one wonder if the Democrats would prefer RCV to the top 2.

These two statements also leave us to wonder what the Republicans are thinking. The top 2 causes them to lose control of their party label. Both the Democrats and Republicans participated in the lawsuit against the top 2. RCV in Pierce County gives the parties control of their party label at the expense of allowing independents and minor parties a level playing field. The Democrats have said they believe there should be more choice in November. Still so far, we are left to wonder if the Democrats and Republicans would prefer top 2 or RCV.

If the Democrats are sincere about lamenting the lack of choice in November, the state legislature can put statewide RCV on the ballot for voters to consider in 2009. Will they do it?

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

State Libertarians Like RCV

The Libertarian Party of Washington held its annual convention yesterday in Tacoma. After the convention passed a resolution endorsing Ranked Choice Voting as superior to the top 2, State Chair Scott Lindsley issued this statement:

Election Law and Libertarians

Tacoma - The Libertarian Party of Washington State prefers the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election system being used in Pierce County starting this year to either the pick-a-party primary system or the top-2 system. RCV provides voters with more choices in November, the election which counts. RCV allows voters to more completely express their opinions about candidates.

In November, Pierce County voters will have county level races with more than two candidates on the ballot. No other voters in the state will have this choice. For the County Executive race, there will be two Democrats, one Republican and one independent, at least, on the November ballot. For one of the County Council races, there will be two Democrats and one Republican. The Libertarian Party is recruiting candidates to join these races. Plus there is still the possibility for more independents joining the races.

In the RCV races, voters will be allowed to mark their first choice, second choice and third choice in each race. This allows voters to more fully express their opinions about the candidate set. No more wasted votes. More choices. Less voting for the lesser of two evils.

The top 2 system in place for the other elections around the state will limit choice in November. In 2000, there were 60 Libertarians on the November ballot around the state. This multitude of candidates enriched the debate. The top 2 discourages this debate.

The top 2 system encourages negative campaigning in November. The top 2 system will result in voters doing calculations about how to defeat the biggest evil, not maximizing the probability of the best candidate winning. The top 2 system will not be good for voters.

The Libertarian Party has consistently looked for ways to improve the political process and the election system here in the state of Washington. The Libertarian Party believes that RCV is superior for voters to the top 2 system and to the pick-a-party primary. The voters deserve better than the top 2 or the pick-a-party primary. The voters deserve RCV.

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State Democrats Don't Like Top 2 --- Next Stop RCV??

Statement on Sam Reed's "Eliminate Choice" Ballot

SEATTLE – In response to Secretary of State Sam Reed's release of rules regarding I-872, Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz issued the following statement:

"Today, Sam Reed made it official that Washington state has outlawed minor parties. The Libertarian, Green, Independent, and Progressive parties can sell their office furniture and computers, because they will never again see their names on a meaningful ballot in our state. Dishonestly framed under the auspices of promoting choice, Sam Reed's Top Two annihilates voters' right to choose among a wide range of candidates and the ideas they represent.
"In 2006 there were five parties to choose from in the US Senate race – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, and Independent. If that election were held today, under Sam Reed's Eliminate Choice rules, you would be free to choose between Mike McGavick and Maria Cantwell. If you are a Libertarian or Green or Independent you no longer have any choice. Reed describes his ballot as a blow to the Democratic and Republican parties, when in fact it insures they will be the only two parties considered in Washington.

"Part of our political heritage in America has been the right to cast a protest vote. That right no longer exists in Washington state. Moreover, Sam Reed is also now promoting the same system that nominated David Duke in a Louisiana governor's race, with no opportunity or ability for the Republican Party to clarify the former Klansman isn't a Republican.

"Starting today, under Sam Reed's Eliminate Choice rules, a Republican in Seattle will be free to choose between two Democratic candidates for the legislature, while a Democrat in Ritzville will be free to choose one of two Republican choices for the legislature.

Kelly Steele

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Democratic and Republican candidates for Pierce County offices in 2008

Over this last weekend, the Democratic and Republican parties of Pierce County chose those candidates which can use their names on the ballot for the partisan Ranked Choice Voting elections in Pierce County in 2008.

Pierce County Executive

Shawn Bunney (R), Calvin Goings (D), Pat McCarthy (D)

County Council, District #2

Joyce McDonald (R), Carolyn Merrival (D), Allen Rose (D)

Council, District #3

Roger Bush* (R), Bruce Lachney (D)

Council, District #4

Tim Farrell* (D)

Council, District #6

Dick Muri* (R), Vincent Stewart (D)

* denotes incumbent

In addition, we may well see Libertarian, Green or independent candidates. Mike Lonergan has announced as an independent candidate for County Executive. As of this writing, we believe he is still in the race. The Libertarians hold their convention this weekend in Titlow Lodge.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Profile: Calvin Goings, Pierce County Executive candidate

This is the second profile in this series on various candidates running in RCV elections in Pierce County. The first profile was of Mike Lonergan, another candidate for County Executive.

Work harder. That is Pierce County Councilmember Calvin Goings (D) strategy for the 2008 County Executive campaign.

Goings acknowledges that no one is quite sure how this election will go, as it is the first major partisan election held with ranked choice voting. With so much up in the air, he believes the answer is to work harder.

In an RCV election, that means that in addition to pursuing endorsements and providing voters with a detailed platform, Goings is pursuing second- and third-choice votes.

"If someone is inclined to vote for another challenger,” Goings said. “I always ask if they would consider marking me as second or third."

Goings anticipates collecting second- and third-choice votes from supporters of all three other candidates—confident that his detailed plan for Pierce County will attract voters.

"People in the county are hungry for specifics, they want to know where you stand and what you're going to do,” Goings said. His campaign website is one way Goings is attempting to communicate his vision for Pierce County.

"I've spent the past 17 years in elected office fighting for the issues and values that matter to Pierce County’s families...I believe I have more experience, proven leadership and a bolder vision for Pierce County than the other candidates."

That being said, Goings may be participating in some cooperative campaigning with one of his rivals: fellow Democrat Pat McCarthy, who Goings says is his own second-choice candidate.

The Pierce County Democratic Party has decided that up to three candidates may use the Democrat party label in partisan RCV elections. The local party has expressed its support, in bylaw amendments, for cooperative campaigning by the Democratic candidates.

With multiple Democrats on the ballot, second-choice votes to be won or lost, and collaborative campaigning on the horizon, the 2008 County Executive election will be a different experience for the voters of Pierce County.

Goings currently serves as the District Two Pierce County Councilmember. He has also served as a state Senator and as Pierce County Fire Commissioner.