Sunday, September 28, 2008

Top 2 vs. Ranked Choice Voting: Negative Campaigning

Top 2 races are exhibiting high levels of negative campaigning. The Top 2 system appears to be designed to maximize the amounnt of negative campaigning. In the Governor's race, the ads are almost all negative now. Voters are being asked to vote against the other candidate, not for a particular candidate.

In the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) races in Pierce County, we are seeing much lower levels of negative campaigning. We are seeing much more positive campaigning. In the County Executive race where there are four candidates and voters have three choices, the campaigns seem more interested in getting those voters' first choices than bashing individual opponents. There is still some negative campaigning, it is just at a lower level than the Governor's race or other heavily contested Top 2 races.

In the County Council District #2 race, Carolyn Merrival and Al Rose have each endorsed the other as their second choices. Of course, in Top 2 races, voters are not allowed to list their second choices, so this would never happen. The very structure of RCV races leads to more cooperative campaigning than the Top 2.

If voters would prefer more positive campaigning and less negative campaigning, RCV is a superior system to the Top 2. Within the Top 2 system, in a heavily contested race, we see a reflex campaign tactic of going negative. Within the RCV system, we see many races with more than two candidates and the rewards to going negative are reduced.

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Ranked-choice system stems parties’ power

Below is a letter to the editor from the Tacoma News Tribune by Nathan Kellogg of Wauna.

"Ranked-choice elections are much better at electing politicians whom the highest number of voters support. Conversely, two-party elections, as evidenced in the current presidential campaign, do a pretty good job of polarizing the electorate and moving the process away from public policy issues and towards party innuendo, lies and sound bites.

State government financing of primary elections that largely serve the two major parties is wrong. Let the parties sort out whom they would like to advance on their own. The fact that our ranked-choice elections are also a step away from the party primaries is another big plus for me."

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Merrival and Rose Urge Voters to Use Their Choices

By Carolyn Merrival and Al Rose

As candidates for the District #2 seat on the Pierce County Council, we recommend to voters that they list both their first and second choices in this race.

Al Rose recommends Al Rose as first choice and Carolyn Merrival as second choice. Al Rose is the first choice for County Council #2 because he offers a fresh, new approach to the many challenges we face in our community. A lifelong resident of Pierce County, Al understands what we expect from our elected officials and as a prosecutor and the chair of the Pierce County Library Board, he knows first-hand what it takes to get things done. Whether it's cost-effective government, safer neighborhoods, protecting our kids, improving our roads, or planning for responsible growth, Al Rose is ready to work together with others, and deliver real results for the citizens of the Council District #2.

Carolyn Merrival recommends Carolyn Merrival as first choice and Al Rose as second choice. Carolyn Merrival will bring a fresh perspective to the council that is sorely lacking. She feels that for a long time now, the council has been listening to the wrong voices. They have been listening to the voices of special interests such as the developers rather than the voices of their constituents. She wants them to start listening to the voices of the families who make Pierce County home. She interacts daily with families of diverse social, political and economic circumstances and can represent you well on the council. Choose Carolyn Merrival as your first choice to be a Voice for Families on the Pierce County Council.

This race is a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election where voters are allowed to list up to three choices. Listing a second choice will not reduce the chance of your first choice winning.

Since there are three strong candidates in this race, the winner is likely to need a combination of first choices and second choices in order to obtain a majority of votes. By taking our recommendation, you will increase the chance that one or the other of us will win.

Bloggers Note: For more on this race, see this posting.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Power pursuit shakes up Pierce Co. politics

Note: This is an article from the FedWay

Federal Way Mirror Inside Politics
Sep 17 2008

OK, Pierce County voters: How many of you can explain Ranked Choice Voting or Instant Run-off Voting?

And quickly now, name the candidates for the fourth-most politically visible executive position in the state.

If you know all the answers, you are an informed voter who also may be in need of a hobby.

The position in question is, of course, Pierce County executive.

After the King County executive, the governor and the mayor of Seattle, it is the next most visible and important political administrative position in the state. Incumbent Executive John Ladenburg is term limited and is running for state attorney general. Four candidates are running to replace him.

Republican Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney (Lake Tapps/Sumner area) announced last December his interest in being executive and is the only candidate in the field who can use the Republican label. He has been on the council since 2002.

Democratic County Council member Calvin Goings from Puyallup was the first to announce in 2006 — almost two years in advance. Goings’s election signs went up last year about the same time most people were putting up Christmas lights. The former state senator created a bit of an inter-party skirmish when he said he would fire the planning director and the sewer utility director. Fellow Democrat John Ladenburg, the directors’ boss, didn’t seem to appreciate the advice.

Others viewed it in the context of Goings’s interest in getting support from the development community such as the Realtors, who endorsed him, or the Master Builders who did not. The Master Builders, a powerful pro-development voice, chose to endorse County Auditor Pat McCarthy for executive. She was previously deputy auditor and served on the Tacoma School Board.

Although McCarthy has raised less money than the others, she is well-known, has campaigned county-wide, and is the only female in the race.

The fourth candidate in the race is Tacoma City Council member Mike Lonergan. Because the political parties can decide who can use their label, Republican Lonergan lost out to Bunney for the Republican label. Lonergan then chose his own label, the Executive Excellence Party. Because of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), there was no primary to whittle the field to a lesser number. The public voted to establish a new system in Instant Run-off Voting, which is the same thing as RCV.

Pierce County voters will rank their choices as first, second and third for executive, sheriff, assessor and county council.

When counting the ballots, the last-place finisher in each race will be eliminated and their votes distributed among the remaining candidates per the voters’ choice. This elimination will provide an “instant run-off” that will result in a winner.

To ensure the good health of the Federal Way Mirror’s editor, publisher and attorneys, please read your voter’s pamphlet for an explanation more legally succinct than mine.

To add to the issue, Pierce County voters will also be voting on candidates like governor who are not part of RCV so voters will get two ballots.

Remember, I told you to read the voter’s pamphlet.

As to the candidates themselves, sources tell me they think it will come down to Bunney and McCarthy. Bunney will likely corral most of the normal Republican vote while McCarthy and Goings split the Democratic vote and try to attract independents.

While this may be a Democratic year, more importantly, it may be a year when women voters make the difference. If that is true, McCarthy may have the broader support and pick up enough second choice votes to move past Goings and Lonergan and challenge Bunney. If not, watch Goings.

Other sources also say that while it is a competitive field with candidates that have different strengths and weaknesses, one commented, “There isn’t a Booth Gardner in the group.” Gardner was Pierce County’s first executive prior to serving two terms as governor.

The comment suggests that whoever wins, that person may have to do a lot of on-the-job training.

King County voters should pay attention to the process as many are urging King County to consider adopting Ranked Choice Voting.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn, can be reached at

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pierce County's first ranked-choice voting runoff

Note: This is a posting from the Tacoma News Tribune's Inside the Editorial blog.

Posted by Kim Bradford @ 09:57:09 am

At last week's City Club of Tacoma forum for Pierce County executive candidates, the League of Women Voters gave audience members a tutorial on ranked-choice voting.

The race was to name the two Tacoma Narrows' bridges. The winners: Olympic and Cascade.

It seems some "voters" had trouble figuring out how to mark their ballots (which is strange since such basics don't change with an RCV election), and others didn't understand there's no advantage in voting the same choice all three times. Below is a comment from the League of Women Voters.

"This was our first large group for teaching RCV. Our key point was that Ranked Choice Voting for the voter is as easy as One, Two, Three. The only complicated part is the counting which will be done a computer. Please let your readers know we can do the same thing for their group as we did at the City Club.

Some interesting items: People circled their choice, checked their choice, and one even circled the arrow but most connected the arrow as they were supposed to. I made the point to the group that the machine can only read the connected arrow and anything else will have to be handcounted which was complicated.

Several people only voted for one, several voted for the same for all three. The other point we made is that you don't have to vote for all three. You can vote for one, two, or three. Voting the same doesn't change anything.
Another point to make is that for the election they can vote for any party they want, even different parties in each column.

The final result from the City Club was Cascade for the Old Bridge and Olympic for the New Bridge. It was an extremely close vote though with Old and New and Gerty and Gordy just one point behind. We will continue to do this exercise at each of our forums and I'll let you know the updates."

Thanks for your interest.
Terri Baker, 1st VP, LWV


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How to Vote in the Pierce County Executive race

In November, the Pierce County Executive race will be one of the first ever Ranked Choice Voting elections in the state of Washington. Voters will be allowed to list their first, second and third choices for the position.

Since there are four elected officials (Tacoma City Councilmember Mike Lonergan, Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Councilmembers Calvin Goings and Shawn Bunney) running for the position, we don't expect that any one candidate will receive a majority of the first choices so second and third choices are likely to be important in this race. Below, as a public service, we describe how various voters should vote in this race.

"Independent - I hate the two party system" voter

First choice is obviously Mike Lonergan of the Executive Excellence party. Second choice is probably middle of the road Democrat Pat McCarty and third choice is Republican Shawn Bunney just so you have one of each.

"Anybody But a Republican" voter

First choice is probably Calvin Goings with Pat McCarthy a close second choice. Third choice is obviously Mike Lonergan. This means only Republican Shawn Bunney is not listed as a choice.

"I am a Republican" voter

First choice is obviously Shawn Bunney. Many of these voters will stop right there. However, my guess is that many of them will list Mike Lonergan as their second choice.

"Third parties are the lunatic fringe" voter

Pat McCarthy is a middle of the road candidate so earns the first choice. Shawn Bunney is a moderate Republican, so earns the second choice. Calvin Goings is then the third choice.

"Executive Experience is important" voter

Mike Lonergan has the most executive experience, so earns the first choice. Pat McCarthy has executive experience as well, so earns the second choice.

"Tree hugger" voter

Calvin Goings is the clear first choice here. Shawn Bunney earns the second choice. We aren't sure about the third choice.

"Social justice" voter

This is close between Goings and Lonergan. We give the first choice to Calvin Goings by a nose. Second choice Mike Lonergan. Third choice to Shawn Bunney for his vote on domestic partners.

"Low taxes" voter

Not many good choices here. However, probably oppose Calvin Goings, so ... first choice Shawn Bunney with a lack of enthusiasm. Second choice Mike Lonergan. Third choice Pat McCarthy.

Readers are encouraged to come up with their own examples. Please comment.


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.


Why are you running for Assessor-Treasurer?

Each candidate for Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer in 2008 was asked "Why are you running?" Below are their answers in order of the candidates' appearance on the ballot.

Dale Washam: Did not answer.

Terry Lee: After 30 years in the private sector overseeing multimillion dollar projects and 24 years in the public sector dealing with land use, I feel that I am the most qualified candidate running. I believe that I could build a bridge between the Assessor/Treasurer's Office and the citizens of Pierce County. I would like to see the implementation of a Property Tax Advisor, a position I created in the 2008 budget to help citizens who are appealing their tax assessments.

I would like to expand our Current Use Assessment program to provide additional property tax relief for addressing shoreline pollution problems, I would like to continue to work with our legislature as I did in 2007 and 2008 to get property tax relief for citizens negatively affected by the Growth Management Act. I would like to be more responsive and available as your Assessor.

Jan Shabro: I am running because I have the administrative skills necessary for the job, I want a customer-friendly experience for the taxpayer, and I want to be an effective advocate for the people to lower property taxes.

Bernardo Tuma: Did not answer.

Barbara Gelman:
The Assessor-Treasurer’s Office is the only office in the County that touches every property owner. It is essential that the person selected by the voters is people-oriented and customer service focused! For
over 20 years in public service, customer service has been my number
one priority. I know the good you can do effectively running the Office
of Assessor-Treasurer as I have done it! And.... I love the job.

When elected, I will continue to support and improve the systems that
provide good customer service and will reach out to our senior
population, those that are disabled, as well as the various taxing
districts, businesses, and citizens. I also commit to assist taxpayers
every step of the way if they choose to appeal their assessments to the
Equalization Board.

Beverly Davidson: While serving as commissioner on the Pierce County Charter Review Commission I heard complaints about the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer's office. I realized I could give the taxpayers better service with my knowledge.

I worked in the Assessor-Treasurer's office for 16 years (1986 to 2003) under four different elected officials. My responsibilities allowed me to have hands-on knowledge of all aspects of the office including the department budget. I saw what was needed and expected from the taxpayer's point of view.

Return to the main posting.


2008 Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer candidates

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

For more information about the County Executive race, see here.

In order of their appearance on the ballot

Dale Washam has run for office several times, including running unsuccessfully for Assessor-Treasurer in 2004. Thus far, Washam has not reported raising any money for this campaign and did not respond to our questionnaire.

Terry Lee is the Pierce County Councilmember from Gig Harbor. Lee is the current Council Chair. He has not reported raising any money for this campaign yet.

Jan Shabro is a former member of the Pierce County Council and a former State Representative. Shabro has raised $12,700 for this campaign.

Bernardo Tuma is a former Metropolitian Parks Commissioner, a candidate for Port Commissioner and a small businessman in downtown Tacoma. Tuma has not reported raising any money for this campaign yet and did not respond to our questionnaire.

Barbara Gelman is the Pierce County Councilmember from District #5 and a former Assessor-Treasurer. Gelman has raised $13,200 for this campaign.

Beverly Davidson is a former Pierce County Charter Review Commissioner and a former employee of the Assessor-Treasurer's department. Davidson has reported raising $8,500 for this campaign.

For comments on why each of the candidates are running, see Why?

To review comments on the race.