Saturday, November 29, 2008

The First Amendment and Scrapping the Top 2

The new Top 2 election system in the state of Washington violates the freedom of association rights of the political parties. The Top 2 should be scrapped by the state of Washington. The political parties should have the right to determine who appears on the ballot with their label.

With the Top 2, any one can sign up to run as a Democrat, a Republican or a Libertarian. For example, in the 36th State Legislative District, the Democratic Party endorsed John Burbank for State Representative. In addition to Burbank, Reuven Carlyle filed to run as a Democrat. Carlyle used the Democrat label to win the election.

In Pierce County, for county level elections, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was used. Candidates who wanted to run as Democrats or Republicans were required to obtain an approval from the relevant county party. The Democrats and Republicans each developed their own set of rules concerning who could use their labels. This is consistent with the freedom of association rights of the political parties implied in the First Amendment.

The RCV rules provide a safety valve for candidates who are unable to use the Democrat or Republican labels. Independent and third party candidates have the same ability to get on the ballot as Democrats and Republicans. In the County Executive election, Mike Lonergan tried to run as a Republican, but was unable to get enough votes at the Pierce County Republican Party convention. Lonergan, then, started the Executive Excellence Party and filed to run. Lonergan was on the ballot in November and had a very respectable showing.

The Top 2 rules allow any candidate to use any label. Karl Marx could run as a Republican. George Bush could run as a Democrat. Parties are formed to express particular political points of view. The Top 2 violates their freedom of association rights. The Top 2 should be scrapped in favor of a system which allows political parties to nominate whomever they like.

PS In November, the voters of Oregon rejected a ballot measure to implement the Top 2 by a margin of 34% to 66%.


Why Does Pierce County Take So Long to Count Its Ballots?

Elections departments throughout the states of Oregon and Washington take a very long time to count ballots. In these two states, voters predominately vote by mail. In Pierce County, 84% of the voters voted by mail. Counting mail-in ballots takes longer than counting poll votes.

The primary reasons why mail-in ballots take longer to count are the processes of verifying the signature on the envelope is valid and ensuring that the ballot has been marked correctly so that the vote counting machinery can read the ballot. Pierce County works hard to both prevent fraud and to ensure that every valid ballot is counted.

As a result, for ballots where the signature does not match, the Elections Department contacts the voter to understand what happened. All of this takes time. With poll voting, the poll workers ensure that the correct person is voting at the polls on Election Day.

In the state of Washington, voters are only required to put their ballots in the mail by Election Day, so ballots arrive for days after Election Day. In the state of Oregon, ballots must arrive at the Elections Department by Election Day. This is another reason why it takes longer to count the votes in the state of Washington.

These factors slow things down in every election, but have even more impact in Presidential years when turnout is high and there are many new voters. These factors are well known by Elections Departments well in advance of the election.

These factors have nothing to do with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). They slow down vote counting in areas of Washington without RCV. Elections officials who blame slow vote counting on RCV are not being honest with the media or the voters.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pierce County Democrats and the 2008 Elections

By Professor Richard Anderson-Connolly
University of Puget Sound
Member - 27th District Democrats

This is an open letter to Democrats in Pierce County

Democrats in Pierce County generally did worse than Democrats nationwide and around the state of Washington. Rather than beginning an honest discussion about the way to prevent a similar performance in the future, Party Chair Nathe Lawver is looking to switch the subject and scapegoat the electoral reform of Ranked Choice Voting.

Let’s consider the performance of Democrats locally:

In a Top-2 race current Democratic County Executive John Ladenburg lost his home county by 16% in the contest for state Attorney General. Ladenburg had a better showing in Klickitat County.

In a Top-2 race for the 8th Congressional seat Democrat Darcy Burner lost in Pierce County by 17%.

In a Top-2 race Democratic State Senator Marilyn Rasmussen (2nd Dist.) lost her seat to Republican challenger Randi Becker because she lost Pierce County. Rasmussen won in Thurston. This was the only seat in the state the Republicans took from the Democrats in the State Senate.

In a Top-2 race the Republicans picked up a house seat (26th Dist.) in the position left open by retiring Democrat Pat Lantz. The Democrat Kim Abel lost Pierce by 10% but Kitsap by only 3%.

In a Top-2 race for Commissioner of Public Lands Republican Doug Sutherland carried Pierce County by 9% even though he lost the statewide race to Democrat Peter Goldmark.

Tim Eyman’s initiative passed in exactly one county in the entire state – Pierce.

Yet what message does the Pierce County Democratic Party leadership want to us to take from these terrible results? Even though none of these was an RCV race we are told that RCV is the biggest problem for the party in the county. This is an embarrassingly obvious attempt to distract attention from the real issues with the local party.

Without some critical self-reflection by the party, 2010 and 2012 have the potential to be bad years for the Democrats locally. The next gubernatorial race may come down to Pierce County and we can’t simply rely on the Obama effect. I’m certain there are some nervous folks in Olympia who have made the same assessment of Pierce County. Clearly the Democratic Party does not have a winning message for Pierce County voters or else it is too poorly organized to get that message across.

In his post-election email Calvin Goings wrote that “it appears that because of Ranked Choice Voting, Pierce County will be a red mark on a blue state.” It’s unfortunate that Goings, as the most progressive candidate on many issues, didn’t have a better showing. But blaming the refs is not a progressive value. Almost certainly under a Top-2 system Goings would have been eliminated in August and his issues would have received less attention. If you have to lose, it’s better to lose in November.

And Lawver, when asked about the RCV election, described it as “rather cumbersome.” It’s disappointing that a chair of the Democratic Party actually can call a more democratic voting system “cumbersome.” I can think of many elements of our democracy that are cumbersome but fortunately many Democrats value outcomes like choice, transparency, and high voter participation.

In any case the “cumbersome” parts of this election were delays caused by the auditor’s office. The system was not tested at full volume and it was discovered only on election night that the computer needed more memory. Polling places were consolidated and the office was not prepared for the high volume. Still, these were minor issues, certainly compared to the delays with mail voting. For the most part Pat McCarthy did a decent job with the county’s first RCV election and a few simple improvements will make it run even better next time. (If the council appoints an auditor who actually supports RCV the improvements will almost certainly be done.)

Lawver, Goings, and McCarthy are all good people who have done good work as Democrats but they shouldn’t represent the party on the issue of RCV. Outside of Pierce County, the Democratic Party is typically the party of electoral reform. Barack Obama was the prime sponsor of RCV legislation when he was a State Senator in Illinois. Howard Dean, the chair of the National Democratic Party, supports RCV. So does Dennis Kucinich. And Jesse Jackson, Jr., who introduced federal RCV legislation. Al Franken supports RCV and would likely be a Senator now if Minnesota used it. The Democratically-controlled legislature of Vermont passed a bill to use RCV for federal offices but the bill was vetoed – by a Republican. The state parties of California, Colorado, Minneapolis, and Maine endorsed RCV. The local Democratic parties in San Francisco, Oakland, and Minneapolis – all cities that have passed RCV initiatives – supported it. And just this week our neighbors to the south – the Democratic Party of Oregon – made passage of a local option RCV bill a legislative priority. Every year more and more Democrats get behind RCV. (Of course Democrats don’t have a monopoly on electoral reform – John McCain also supported RCV.)

Let’s recognize that a fight against RCV comes with an opportunity cost: Truly progressive issues – like jobs and wages, civil liberties, the environment – must necessarily receive less time, energy, and money. Furthermore many new and young voters came into the Democratic Party because it promised progressive change, including issues like electoral reform. If many new Democrats had to pick between Obama, a supporter of RCV, and most local Democratic leaders, I don’t think it would be a close contest. Fighting RCV is a terrible way to keep the newly-energized progressive youth movement excited about the Democratic Party. Within a year the party will be nothing more than the same people repeating the same ideas that brought the county to its current state.

In the News Tribune, Peter Callaghan called it for what it is: The county party leaders are looking for a scapegoat, something to distract attention from their own poor performance. What he didn’t emphasize is that this is largely a problem for just one of the two parties – the Democrats. The Republicans have been far more reasonable. I have heard few complaints about the system from Bunney supporters. They knew the rules, fought the good fight, and lost a close one.

I hope that rank-and-file Democrats, the progressive base that does most of the work for the leadership, will refuse to go along with the scapegoating of RCV. Instead of blaming the system – an explanation that doesn’t fit the facts – Democrats need to engage in a deeper debate about the best way to recruit and build strong candidates.

Let’s focus on issues like health care, civil liberties, peace, full employment, and, yes, progressive electoral reforms. If we can offer Pierce County citizens policies that represent their values and interests then we will get our share of victories using a democratic voting system like RCV. If we ignore the important issues to spend our time fighting electoral reforms then we can count on the local party’s continuing decline even as the rest of the state and indeed the country become more Democratic.

Labels: ,

Georgia Mess Points Out the Need for Ranked Choice Voting

The Georgia US Senate race is showing the problems with their election system. The voters and taxpayers of Georgia are going to have a run-off election since no candidate received a majority of the votes in November.

James Wiseman writes:

"The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is going to a runoff Dec. 2, because the Libertarian candidate, Allen Buckley, got just enough votes to prevent either the Republican Saxby Chambliss or the Democrat Jim Martin from getting a majority.

Georgia voters, many of whom waited in line for hours to cast their ballots, will have to go back to vote again. The runoff is an extra expense for a state government that is already in a budget crisis, and a serious inconvenience for every voter who will have to somehow find the time for another trip to the polling place. Many will be unable or unwilling to vote again, which means that the results will reflect the desires of a smaller proportion of the original voting population.

The problem with our voting system is obvious. On Nov. 4, each voter was asked for his or her first choice for senator. Why make us come back a month later to ask us again? Why not ask us for our first and second choices on Election Day? In the Senate race in Georgia, no one got a majority. Since Buckley came in last, he would be eliminated, and each of Buckley’s voters’ ballots would be switched to their second choices. It is exactly what happens in a runoff, except that it is done immediately, without forcing us to hold another election."

The situation in Georgia shows one of the reasons why many people throughout the country are considering a system such as the ranked choice voting system in Pierce County, Washington.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Democrats in Oregon to push Ranked Choice Voting for local elections

Jim Robison of Democrats for IRV reports the Democratic Party of Oregon has adopted Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) (known as Ranked Choice Voting in Washington state) as a legislative agenda item. A bill supporting local option for IRV has already been pre-filed for the next legislative session (starts in January) by the Secretary of State-Elect.

With strong Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, and the incoming Secretary of State supporting it, it looks very likely that Oregon will pass a bill directing the Secretary of State to draft rules which will allow any
local jurisdiction in Oregon to use IRV.

Labels: ,

Minnesota Senate Race Shows Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting

The US Senate race in Minnesota is a mess. This mess is in no small part due to the plurality voting system used in electing Senators in Minnesota and elsewhere around the country. Ranked Choice Voting (or as it is known in Minnesota Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)) would have improved the Senate race in Minnesota.

David Durenberger writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"We all were hoping that the bruising and expensive race for the U.S. Senate seat would end on Election Day.

Instead, the $40 million-plus campaign continues to permeate our headlines and limit our forward momentum. The Coleman-Franken race is now in a contentious recount and is almost certainly headed to the courts from there. The recount and its aftermath will be a protracted and high-priced affair, and no matter the outcome, most voters will be left wondering if there is not a better way to express our preferences.

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) would have produced an entirely different election."

Minnesotans would have been better off. Residents of Pierce County have had the benefit of adopting such a system for county level elections. This year's set of RCV elections went well and many voters are hoping this positive election reform will spread throughout the states of Washington and Minnesota.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Goings and Lonergan Eliminated in August

In June, Calvin Goings and Mike Lonergan filed to run for Pierce County Executive. Both had been running active campaigns prior to this time. The County Executive race was a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) race, and both candidates names went directly to the November general election ballot.

What would have happened if the County Executive race had been a Top 2 race like the state legislative races around the state?

All four candidates (Pat McCarthy, Shawn Bunney, Goings and Lonergan) would have filed to run. All four candidates would have appeared on the August primary ballot. And Goings and Lonergan would have been eliminated from the ballot after the primary. The first choices of voters in the November general election indicate that Bunney and McCarthy would have been the Top 2 candidates in the August primary.

The face-off between Bunney and McCarthy would have left the campaign less diverse and less lively. 38% of the voters had Goings or Lonergan as their first choice. These voters would have been disenfranchised by the Top 2 system.

This is particularly true of the Pierce County Democratic Party establishment; most of whom supported Goings' candidacy. Many of these Democrats were very disappointed by the strong relationship of both McCarthy and Bunney to the pro-development crowd. It was better for democracy for those Democrats to be able to express their views by supporting Goings all the way through the campaign.

The elimination of Goings and Lonergan in August would have happened with the Top 2. It would have weakened democracy. RCV strengthened the democratic process.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Scapegoat Ranked Choice Voting

Several leaders of the Democratic Party in Pierce County have been using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for a scapegoat for their poor performance in local elections results. Instead of taking responsibility for the poor local campaigns, these folks want us to focus our attention on the good government reform of RCV.

In "Don’t let critics scapegoat ranked choice," Peter Callaghan writes:

"Ranked choice voting causes antibiotic-resistant strep infections.

Is it a coincidence that until Pierce County switched to ranked choice voting, the economy was doing great?

Ranked choice voting lost the Sonics and is responsible for the Mariners losing 100 games.

Don’t even bring up global warming.

Oh, and ranked choice voting is to blame for every problem associated with the 2008 election, especially but not exclusively in Pierce County.

Long lines at the polls? A glacially slow vote count that would make Nigeria proud? The candidate you voted for losing? Ranked choice voting.

Is it any wonder that many elected officials and party brass have set their sights on an experimental voting system that has had all of one chance of succeeding? Scapegoats are wonderful things. Everyone agrees that none of the problems are their fault; they put all of the blame on something else and then hold a ritual sacrifice."

These Democratic Party leaders do not want members of the party to focus on their loss of a State Senate seat, a State Representative seat and a County Council seat. They want to switch the subject. These people should be working on their message for voters, not the election system.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting

By Don Vandervelde, Gig Harbor

Democracy is important enough for us to deserve to have the trouble taken to employ the best, and most thorough, of available methods. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is that method. Let's review the bidding.

1) It (RCV) preserves the vital right of political parties to offer the candidates of their own choice; unlike the "top-two" alternative.

2) It allows voters a broader selection of all parties' candidates.

3) It takes power from the big parties, and gives more power to each voter to help the candidates the voter likes, regardless of party.

4) It eliminates the "wasted vote" problem, by allowing a voter to express his preference for a minor party's candidate, while preserving that vote for his favorite major party.

5) And certainly not least, it eliminates the need for preliminaries and run-off elections, making a shorter campaign season, saving time, money, yard signs, and aggravation for all of us.

As we all get more used to its advantages and the process, we'll come to depend on its virtues and elections will run smoothly. Folks who don't, won't, or can't understand the process, can always just vote once for their first choice candidate as they always have, and it will still be counted. as it always has been.

Labels: ,

Late Posting Preliminary Election Results

Pierce County was slow to post preliminary election results on Election Night due to poor pre-election planning and testing. Despite the fact that the Elections Department projected record turnout for this election, they did not test their software in advance to see if it would be able to handle the record volume.

On Election Night, they found out their computers had insufficient memory to efficiently run the preliminary results and there were capacity constraints on transferring files between machines. Now that computer memory has been expanded and the software constraints understood, the results are run in short amounts of time. Running a volume test before election night would have saved the stress of slow results.

While Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy was responsible for the late posting of preliminary results, she blamed Ranked Choice Voting for the slow results . McCarthy needs to take responsibility for not running a volume test of the software.


Long Lines at the Polls

Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy had two years to prepare for this general election. While her department did many things correctly, her planning for the poll voting was flawed and the cause of long lines at the polls. In a Presidential election year with high levels of anticipated participation, she closed down polling places and did not sufficiently increase the capacity of the polling sites.

The result was long lines of frustrated voters at the polling sites. McCarthy blamed Ranked Choice Voting rather than taking responsibility for her poor decision making. Blaming RCV for long lines is a bit like blaming Barack Obama for the long lines. McCarthy needs to do a more honest job of taking responsibility for doing her job.

With sufficient capacity planning, the long lines at the polls could have been eliminated. McCarthy knows that. She should admit it.


Friday, November 07, 2008

McCarthy still leading County Executive race

Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy saw her lead shrink in the preliminary results published tonight, but the lead appears to be significant enough to hold up through further vote counting.

In the results published Tuesday night, McCarthy's lead over Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney was 8507 votes after the allocation of Mike Lonergan and Calvin Goings' supporters' second choices. Tonight the lead had shrunk to 6695 votes. This represented a significant decline in the percentage lead, but Bunney will need stage a big swing in the remaining ballots to overcome McCarthy's 6695 vote lead.

McCarthy is still receiving more support from Lonergan and Goings supporters than Bunney. The big margin amongst Goings supporters was expected since both McCarthy and Goings are Democrats. Lonergan, though, tried to run as a Republican, but was rejected. One would have expected that Lonergan supporters would mostly be Republicans, but McCarthy and Goings were getting the majority of the second choices.

The schedule calls for these results to be updated again next Friday. Given the closeness of the race, it would be good if the Elections Department added a Monday or Tuesday update to this race.

Labels: , ,

Pierce County Republicans surge as Poll Votes Counted

Last evenings' posted preliminary results posted by the Pierce County Auditor's Office showed Republican percentages moving up in several close races around the county. The votes counted over the last couple of days represent mostly poll votes and it is unclear whether this surge will continue when the counting of the poll votes is complete and we move back to counting exclusively the late arriving mail-in ballots.

County Executive race tightens

In the Pierce County Executive race, Republican Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney's lead in first choices has moved from just under 3% on election night to about 6 3/4% as of last night. This will likely result in a substantial narrowing of Democrat Pat McCarthy's lead in the RCV race.

In Tuesday night's tabulation of results, McCarthy picked up substantial second choices from Mike Lonergan and Calvin Goings supporters. Tomorrow night we will get another opportunity to see the RCV tabulation. It will be interesting to see if the poll supporters of Lonergan and Goings gave their second choices to McCarthy.

This analysis will be possible due to the release of a ballot image file with the poll ballots in the file. (As of Tuesday's listing the Auditor's office had only counted mail-in ballots received before Tuesday.)

This race appears to still be too close to call.

Close County Council races

In the open Pierce County Council, District #2 race, Republican Joyce McDonald saw her percentage of first choices rise to 47.64%. This is sufficiently close to 50%, it will make it difficult for Democrat Al Rose to catch her with second choices from Carolyn Merrival's supporters.

In Tuesday night's preliminary results posting, Republican incumbent Pierce County Council member Roger Bush (District #3) trailed his Democratic opponent Bruce Lachney by over a percentage point. As of last night's posting, Bush had pulled ahead by over 2 percent. This two-way race is still too close to call.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tim Farrell and Republican Dick Muri are cruising to easy re-election in their County Council races.

Assessor-Treasurer race too close to call

The nonpartisan Assessor-Treasurer's race is still way too close to call. Four candidates (Barbara Gelman, Dale Washam, Jan Shabro and Terry Lee) still have a shot at winning. This race will not be determined until at least a week from now.

Last night's tabulation appeared to only take about 30 minutes including the time for checking the results. It appears as if increasing the memory of the computers has substantially sped up the generation of results as compared to Tuesday night.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Openness and Transparency in Voting

Pierce County's new Ranked Choice Voting software has provided us with far greater openness and transparency with the introduction of the publication of the ballot image files on the Auditor's website. These computer files are a text file for each RCV race showing the choices made on each ballot processed by the vote counting machine.

Early Wednesday morning the Auditor's office published the first preliminary ballot image files of the RCV votes which had been counted at that time. See here. There are no files for traditional elections. The next update of the files will be on Friday evening.

This information allows one to mimic the tabulation of preliminary results on your own computer. Indeed, one correspondent has downloaded the ballot image onto his home computer and run the RCV algorithm at home with software available on the internet. He was able to arrive at exactly the same results as the Pierce County Auditor's office.

In addition to checking the tabulations of the results, the ballot image files will allow a level of election analysis never before available. For example, you can calculate what percentage of Lonergan supporters' in Tacoma listed McCarthy as their second choice. In the preliminary numbers, what percentage of the vote came from Puyallup as compared to the number of registered voters in that city. Since most of the vote in Pierce County is via the mail, being able to analyze preliminary results with precinct totals allows people to better analyze how the results are likely to change as more votes are counted.

The ballot image file published on RCV races represents a big step forward in transparency and openness. A big improvement in democracy.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

McCarthy in lead for Pierce County Executive race

In the hotly contested Pierce County Executive race, Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy (D-Tacoma) has a solid lead Pierce County Councilmember Shawn Bunney (R-Bonney Lake) after the allocation of the second choices of Pierce County Councilmember Calvin Goings' (D-Puyallup) and Tacoma City Councilmember Mike Lonergan's (E-Tacoma) supporters.

The vote count had a couple of surprises in the preliminary Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) results. Lonergan, running as the Executive Excellence candidate, had a very strong showing of 14+% of the first choices in the four-way RCV race. This is quite a strong showing for a third party candidate in such a crowded field.

More surprising was that Lonergan supporters gave more second choices to McCarthy than to Bunney. Since Lonergan made a valiant effort to run as a Republican, many guessed most of his supporters would list Bunney as a second choice. In early results, this was not true. If McCarthy continues to receive most of Lonergan's supporters second choices, she is the likely winner.

Calvin Goings endorsed Pat McCarthy as his second choice, but many of his more active supporters bashed McCarthy for accepting the endorsement of the Master Builders Association of Pierce County. Despite the animosity between the two camps, McCarthy is receiving 79% of Goings supporters' second choices.

The combination of Lonergan and Goings supporters' second choices looks like it will be enough for McCarthy to overcome Bunney's lead in first choices. More votes need to be counted, but this is a strong lead.


Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer race too close to call

The Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer race is far too close to call at this point. Dale Washam has a small lead in first choices, but has only 24.67% of the first choices. Barbara Gelman has a very small lead over Washam, Jan Shabro and Terry Lee after a preliminary run of the Ranked Choice Voting allocation of second and third choices.

Due to the large number of votes yet to be counted, any one of these four candidates could still win this race. The allocation of second and third choices will be crucial in this race. The next tabulation of second and third choices will be on Friday afternoon. We expect this race to be too close to call until at least that point.


Pastor Elected Pierce County Sheriff

Appointed Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor won his first election as Sheriff yesterday. While he had two opponents (R. P. Kollu and Jesse Hill) in the race, he received over 70% of the first choices in preliminary results. We see no reason for this to change.

In 2006, a charter amendment to the Pierce County charter made the Sheriff's position an elected position. This is the first election under that amendment.

Labels: ,

Pierce County Council preliminary results

In Pierce County, Council Districts 2,3 4, and 6 were up for election yesterday. In preliminary results, District #2 Councilmember Tim Farrell (D-Tacoma) and District #6 Councilmember Dick Muri (R-Steilacoom) are on their way to easy re-election.

In District #3, incumbent Councilmember Roger Bush (R-Graham) is trailing his challenger Bruce Lachney (D- Eatonville) by a small margin of just 138 votes (8959-8821). Many more votes need to be counted. This race is too close to call at this point.

In District #2, State Representative Joyce McDonald (R-Puyallup) is leading Al Rose (D-Puyallup) in her bid to move from the state legislature to the County Council. While this race is still too close to call, her big lead in first choice votes appears to be too large for Rose to overcome with Merrival supporters' second choices.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Historic Ranked Choice Voting Election in Pierce County

Pierce County voters are about to participate in an historic Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election for county officials. Voters will have more choices and will be able to order their choices. Voters will be able to choose the person, not the party, if they want to do so. RCV ensures that we get majority winners in each election. It is an exciting path-breaking event in our history.

More Choices When It Matters

In the race for Pierce County Executive, voters will have four solid candidates from whom to choose. The Assessor-Treasurer race has six candidates. The Sheriff and District #2, County Council races have three candidates each in them. This is in stark contrast to the state level elections where there will be only one or two candidates on the ballot.

There are more third party and independent candidates on the November ballot than the rest of the state combined. Independent voters in North Tacoma will have Ken Paulson as a choice for County Council. Mike Lonergan is running as a third party candidate for County Executive.

Vote Your Heart

In these races, voters will be allowed to list their first, second and third choices. In the County Executive race, if you love candidate A, like candidate B, can live with candidate C and loath candidate D, you, as a voter, can list A as your first choice, B as your second choice and C as your third choice. No need to worry about throwing the race to candidate D. No need to settle for second or third best, because "they have the best chance to win." Vote your heart in these ranked choice elections.

Majority Winners

In a RCV election, if one candidate receives a majority of the first choice votes, then that candidate is the winner. If no candidate receives a majority of the first choice votes, then the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and those votes are allocated based on the voters' second choices.

If after this allocation a candidate has a majority of the votes, that candidate wins. If not, repeat the process until one candidate has a majority. This process ensures a majority winner and prevents candidates from winning with less than a majority of the voters supporting that candidate.

Remember to Fill Out the Separate Ballot

This will be the first November election with more than one ballot card in Pierce County. Be sure to fill out both the traditional ballot card and the Ranked Choice Voting card and return both in the envelope.

Make sure you read the voters' pamphlet for the instructions. The Elections Department has done a good job of explaining how to fill out your ballot for these races.

Participate in History

This RCV election is, by far, the largest implementation of RCV in a partisan election in the US. Have fun with it. Vote your heart. People throughout the country see Pierce County as a leader in election reform. And you get to participate.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Muri's Musings on the Pierce County Executive Race

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

By Pierce County Councilmember Dick Muri (R-Steilacoom)

2008 is a very interesting election year in our state and nationwide, but as interesting is our unique election contest for Pierce County Executive. This is the only Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election in our nation which includes partisan offices.

The citizens committee which introduced RCV as a proposed county charter amendment legislation back in 2006 and which subsequently passed the voters in November 2006, has resulted in a new kind of campaign. One theory of why RCV is a better system is that it will lead to more cordial elections than Top 2 races. This is because if you are not someone's first choice, at least you want to be a voter's second choice. The campaign for county executive has not fully met this objective, though the campaigns are calm and polite compared to the governors contest.

Calvin Goings and Pat McCarthy have been campaigning against each other and automated telephone calls from the Mike Lonergan campaign sort of attacking Shawn Bunney's fiscal record were by my political thinking unexpected. My advice to Shawn Bunney from day one of his quest to be our next executive has been to take the high road, discuss his exemplary qualifications and to articulate a positive vision for Pierce County. Shawn has done that and for that reason his chance of winning this election have increased. The News Tribune Endorsement may be somewhat attributed to his positive and enthusiastic vision for our county.

In June of this year, after candidate filing, I made a confidential prediction on election results to a work colleague of mine which I will announce here with my reasoning. I predicted the results of first choice votes would be Bunney 38%, McCarthy 28%, Goings 22%, and Lonergan 12%. I figures Shawn would get the base GOP vote of 42%, minus 4% from Lonergan GOP supporters. McCarthy and Goings would split an enhanced Democratic base of 50%, with a slight edge going to Pat because she is the only woman in the race and has continuous county wide name recognition. Pat's name is everywhere, including in surveys with our ballots!! ; - )

I expected Cal Goings to out fund raise and to out work Pat, but she has a built in advantage. Though from my years of observations, Cal Goings is much more qualified than Pat to be our next county executive. Mike Lonergan, who I consider to be a good friend, is at a disadvantage by not having a major party label although it is not clear how this plays out in RCV elections.

Mike Lonergan has a loyal following that reaches across party lines, is somewhat Tacoma centric, and my initial estimate of 12% might be exceeded. I also predicted Mike Lonergan may have the most second choice votes, but that does not help a candidate if they don't get enough first place votes to make it past the first round.

OK, what will the results look like after the second round? Lonergan's 12% votes will be distributed as follows: Bunney 5.5%, McCarthy 2.5%, Goings 1%, No choice 3% (thus I give everyone a rounded 1% more). Thus it is now Bunney 44.5%, McCarthy 31.5%, Goings 24%. This then leads to a very close final contest, because I then redistribute based on Goings voters 2nd and 3rd choices (3rd used only if second choice was Lonergan), 14% to McCarthy, 4% Bunney, 6% No choice (thus 3% each to Bunney and McCarthy).

Final contest prediction, Bunney winner with 51.5% to McCarthy 48.5%. These calculations back in June were based on a 25% 2nd choice under vote. My discussions with voters, indicates the number could be much higher. If that is the case, that will enhance Shawn Bunney's chances for he will be the clear first place vote winner.

My numbers are of course just a seat of the pants "WAG" based on my "gut feel" back in June. It will be interesting to see how close I come to the actual results as they are tabulated in the following weeks. And the discussions on RCV will continue. Pierce County government offices should be moved to odd numbered years, joining other area municipalities. It works for the counties to our north! More on that thought at a later time.