Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ranked Choice Voting and the 2000 election

In the 2000 elections, the voters of Pierce County voted in three momentous races in which the winner received less than a majority of the votes. These elections changed the course of history, and are viewed by many as unfair outcomes. From this election came an increased drive to reform our election system to be more fair, to be more inclusive and to inspire more debate of the issues. This eventually led to the adoption of Ranked Choice Voting in Pierce County and other places around the US.

In 2000, the Presidential election was very close. The winner was going to be settled by who won the electoral votes of Florida. After an extended period of time, it was determined that George Bush received a few more votes than Al Gore in Florida and Bush won the election.

Ralph Nader received far more votes than the difference between Bush and Gore in Florida. Many Democrats believe Nader cost Gore the election. To many Democrats, Nader was a spoiler and votes for Nader were wasted votes. In subsequent elections, Democrats actively sought to discourage Nader from running.

In 2000, the candidates for the US Senate seat in the state of Washington were Democrat Maria Cantwell, incumbent Republican Slade Gorton and Libertarian Jeff Jared. Cantwell won with 48.7% (less than a majority of the votes). Cantwell became the 50th Democratic Senator and thus affected the balance of power in the US Senate.

Slade Gorton believes Jared's candidacy cost him his job. Many Republicans view the Libertarians as spoilers within the current election system. Republicans actively discourage Libertarians from running in races due to concerns about the spoiler effect.

In 2000, the candidates for the 25 District State Senate seat in the Puyallup area were Democrat Jim Kastama, Republican Joyce McDonald and Libertarian Jerry Christensen. Kastama won with 49.1% of the vote. Kastama became the 25th Democrat in the State Senate and shifted the balance of power to the Democrats in that body.

McDonald was quoted at the time as saying Christensen had cost her the race. She has said if the 2000 race had been Ranked Choice Voting, she probably would have won and still be in the State Senate.

Observing these results, it is easy to conclude that our system of plurality voting is unfair to candidates and voters. We should have a system which leads to majority winners. We should have a system which encourages more rather than fewer candidates. Voters deserve more choice, but without having to be concerned about wasting their vote.

Ranked Choice Voting encourages voters to vote honestly about who their first choice is and to continue telling us about their second and third choices. It allows the Nader voters to tell us who their second choice is. It allows Jared voters to tell us who their second choice is. It allows Christensen voters to tell us who their second choice is. And, if their candidate is eliminated, their second choice can have an impact on the eventual winner. Their vote will not be wasted. Their candidate will not be a spoiler.

In the 2008 Pierce County Executive race, we saw four candidates. Mike Lonergan, the third party candidate, was not considered a spoiler. Most Democrats listed Pat McCarthy and Calvin Goings as their first two choices. The debates were lively and filled with discussion of the issues.

While several of the RCV races were easy to call on election night (e.g. Sheriff), the County Executive race was too close to call. However, we have an Executive winner long before the yet-to-be-determined US Senate race in Minnesota, where the winner will have about 42% of the vote. The US Senate race in Minnesota is a good example of the problems of our current system and why we need to keep Ranked Choice Voting in Pierce County.

I urge you to vote No on the repeal of RCV in Pierce County. This election reform leads to a healthier democracy.



At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repealing RCV is on the ballot already? What could people not like about it?


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