Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Instant Runoff Voting vs. Montana - Change

In the debate before the Pierce County Charter Review Commission comparing Instant Runoff Voting and the Montana primary, those speaking in favor of retaining the newly instituted Montana primary have noted that Instant Runoff Voting would represent a change for voters. Change can be for the better and change can be for the worse.

Prior to 2004 in the state of Washington, we used the blanket primary to elect our partisan officials. Then, the Democratic and Republican party organizations successfully sued the state to get the blanket primary declared illegal. The Democratic and Republican party organizations then lobbied to get the Montana primary instituted in its place and in 2004 we used the system.

The Secretary of State's office and the various county auditors around the state worked hard to educate the voters on the new Montana primary system since it represented a change for voters. According to the Secretary of State's website, they received many phone calls and emails from voters about the newly instituted Montana primary. Almost all of them negative. Further, they did a poll and only 21 % of the voters liked the Montana primary.

In 2004, a statewide initiative to rid the voters of the Montana primary (I-872) qualified for the ballot. The initiative passed statewide and received over 62% of the vote in Pierce County. The voters of Pierce County do not like the Montana primary we use in partisan elections today.

The Democratic and Republican party organizations persisted and successfully sued the state to get I-872 overturned. These party organizations do not seem to care if the voters like their change or not.

When Instant Runoff Voting was implemented in San Francisco, it represented a change for the voters. After the Elections Department engaged in voter education on Instant Runoff Voting and the voters had a chance to use the new system, a poll was taken and the voters preferred Instant Runoff Voting 4 to 1 over the old system. The voters of San Francisco liked the change in their voting system.

Some changes work out to be for the worse. Some changes work out to be for the better. In the debate between Instant Runoff Voting and the Montana primary, we should keep our focus on the merits of the two systems, not whether or not something is a change.


At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Party registration and elections work in many places and give the voter some idea of how candidates think. In Washington State candidates say one thing and then do whatever the party wants, often fooling many voters.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Richard Shepard said...

There is no reason why factions within the Democratic and Republican Parties could not put up their own candidates outside of the party machinery. All they have to do is modify their name slightly (e.g., "Progressive Democratic Party", or "Moderate Republican Party") and nominate their candidates in the same way that minor parties nominate their candidates. Then, under both the Montana system and IRV, the public would have a wide variety of choices at the general election. The primary benefit to IRV is that it is a majority system while retaining the benefit of widest possible voter choice. The Montana system is a plurality system, in which the winner may not have the support of the majority of the voters.


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