Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting put to the test in Pierce County Council, District #2 race

Joyce McDonald (R), Carolyn Merrival (D) and Al Rose (D) are running for Calvin Goings' seat on the Pierce County Council. Goings, a Democrat, held the seat for eight years and is running for County Executive this November.

The race is an interesting example of the new Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system being used in Pierce County. All three candidates will appear on the November ballot. Voters will be allowed to list their first, second and third choices on the ballot. The Democrats are counting on voters listing their first two choices for Democrats. McDonald's campaign would like to see either some ticket splitting or some voters listing just their first choice.

Joyce McDonald was first elected State Representative in 2002 and has chosen to run for Pierce County Council rather than to run for re-election.

In 2000, McDonald ran for State Senate against Democrat Jim Kastama and Libertarian Jerry Christensen. Kastama won with less than a majority of the vote. At the time, McDonald was quoted as saying that Christensen had cost her the election. It would have been quite interesting to have had that race run as a RCV election where voters were allowed to list their second choices as well as their first choices. McDonald might well have spent the last eight years in the State Senate rather than Kastama.

McDonald is a strong candidate in this race given her name recognition and ability to campaign. While this district probably tends Democrat, the strength of McDonald's name recognition may well carry the day.

Dr. Carolyn Merrival was elected to the Pierce County Charter Review Commission and opposed Ranked Choice Voting while on the Commission. However, she showed herself to be a thoughtful, hard working member of the Commission. Later, she supported Democratic Party rules to allow more than one Democrat on the ballot in Ranked Choice Voting elections. We compliment Merrival on her support of voter choice. Merrival certainly wants the second choices of Rose supporters.

Al Rose is a deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Pierce County. He has been the legal counsel to the Pierce County Auditor's office. Thus far, Merrival and Rose have raised about the same amounty of money for this race and it is unclear who will be favored by more voters. Of course, Rose will be asking for the second choice support of Merrival supporters.

It seems unlikely that any candidate will receive a majority of the first choices in this race. Also, McDonald will probably receive the most first choices. Will Merrival or Rose be the first eliminated? Will the second choices of supporters of the eliminated candidate be enough to elect the Democrat?

In this race, the election is still to be decided. Voters should review their choices carefully and list both a first choice and a second choice. It should be a close race.

If McDonald wins this race and Roger Bush wins re-election, the Republicans could have a 5-2 majority on the Pierce County Council. This would be quite a bright spot in the state for Republicans.

Of course, if the Democrats carry these two races, the control of the Council would shift back to the Democrats.

Voters have a real choice in this election. The voters choice in this election will have a major impact on the composition of the County Council.

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