Guardian Voices: The case against RCV


“The Cure for the Ills of Democracy is More Democracy”
                                 -- old Progressive Party slogan

My friends here at the Guardian have elevated support for ranked choice voting to a defining requirement for being considered a progressive. This is not only historically incorrect,  it is actually politically silly. There are many progressive reasons to oppose RCV -- not the least of which is the undeniable fact that it overwhelmingly favors incumbents, has failed to deliver on the 2002 ballot promises, and now poses real threats to progressive political advancement in key supervisor districts. 

First, a little history. 

The two greatest national political victorys  of the Progressive Era were the 1913 adoption of the 17th Amendment of the US Constitution, which required direct elections of US Senators, and, at the tail end of the era,  the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Both expanded people power in elections, curing the ills of democracy by more democracy.

Historically, to be a Progressive is to favor MORE elections, MORE political opportunities for more people at the local level.  How can it be that it is now progressive to favor FEWER elections at the local level?

In the March, 2002 Voters Handbook, ballot arguments against RCV were authored by several progressive activists (Sue Bierman, Jane Morrison, David Looman, Larry Griffin, David Spiro and me, to name a few). We argued then that replacing local elections with a mathematical formula that few understand and even fewer could explain was political foolishness. While were outvoted, I think we were right a decade ago.

Left-liberals do very well in run-off elections in San Francisco -- from 1975, when Moscone beat Bargbagalata in a December run-off, to the run-off victory of the more liberal candidate for City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, over Chamber of Commerce functionary Jim Lazarus in 2001. The reason is that in low-turnout elections, left-liberals vote more heavily that do conservatives, and that’s a verifiable San Francisco political fact.

But it was the 2000  supervisors races that showed just how well left-liberal forces did in run-off elections at the district level: Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, Matt Gonzales, Chris Daly, Sophie Maxwell, and Gerardo Sandoval, the very heart of the progressive majority, were elected in December run-off elections.

In 2002, three arguments were made for RCV: first, that it would reduce negative campaigning; second, that it would increase turnout in local elections and third, it would reduce costs by eliminating the run off election. Of the three  arguments only the last has been met, a dubious achievement in that even more such savings could be made by eliminating ALL elections.

Can anyone actually claim that last year’s mayoral election, the first contested one conducted under RCV, was anything but a negative free-for-all? Or, how about the 2010 D6 race between Debra Walker and Jane Kim, or the D8 race between Mandelman and Weiner? Or the 2002 D4 Ron Dudum - Ed Jew race? RCV did not end negative campaigns.

How about turnout?  Last year’s mayoral race had the lowest turnout in a contested race for mayor in the modern history of San Francisco. Every supervisorial race in 2008 had a lower turnout than  the citywide average. Turnout in 2010 was below citywide levels in the RCV supervisor races in D4, D6 and D10.

No, the record is clear RCV has not resulted in higher turnout, either.

RCV creates a political system in which candidates make deals with other candidates, behind closed doors, before the voters vote.  Runoff elections result in a system in which voters make deals with candidates AFTER they vote in the polling booth. What’s wrong with giving voters two choices in two elections instead of three choices in one election? Oh, that’s right, we save money by giving voters fewer elections.

Left-liberals tend to field fewer candidates for races than do moderates and conservatives because, especially in San Francisco, left-liberals simply don’t know how to raise political money, while moderates and conservatives do. RCV elections reward multiple candidates of the same political persuasion as these candidate can agree to appeal to their similar voters to vote for them as a block.  Thus, RCV will always favor, in an open contest in which there is no incumbent, moderate to conservative candidates because there are  usually more of them running.

That’s what happened to Avalos in last years mayoral election: he picked up nothing as the moderate candidates’ second and third votes went to the moderate Lee. The same happened in D10 two years ago: moderates voted for multiple moderate candidates and the only real left-liberal in the race did not pick up any of these votes and lost -- although he outpolled the eventual, moderate winner.

RCV favors incumbents, and that’s why at least two of the Class of 2000 progressive supervisors told me they voted for it. Lets see how well it works to defeat Sup. Scott Wiener, who is far to the right of the average voter in D8, or Supervisor Malia Cohen in D10 who was supported by less than 30 percent of the election day vote.

What seems to be going on here is an incredibly silly political association game.  Because repealing RCV is supported by conservative supervisors and the Chamber of Commerce we should be opposed since they are for it. Haven’t we seen this year conservative Republicans make one self defeating political move after another?  When your enemy is threatening to shoot himself in the heard why are we trying to pull the gun away? It time to pull the trigger on RCV.


I agree with 99% of this. I think that Ed Lee would have won any type of election last November. But two months of a direct Ed Lee/John Avalos contest would have helped the Progressives long term (which is why I was so glad that it didn't occur). Ed Lee is not the most charismatic guy. Avalos might have been impressive in articulating the vision of a Progressive Mayor. We would have seriously considered the concept of a Progressive Mayor. He would have lost anyway but seeds might have been sown.

As it was everybody went home on Nov 9 and the city by and large stopped thinking about Progressive goals.

And that was just Avalos. Chiu and Hererra appeared on more ranked choice ballots. The UCSF study argued that Avalos was not the best Progressive candidate because he had very little appeal outside of the Progressive camp. Chiu and Hererra had more but they went home on Nov 9 also.

One mention the confusion issue and I expect that some pro RCV people will fault you on that. The 1-2-3 ballot is indeed simple. But the manipulations that occur after your leave the voting booth create many confusion options.

What kind of system is it if you don't know who you voted for or who you voted against as you leave the voting booth?

Answer: RCV.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

With RCV, if you leave the voting booth not knowing whether you voted for a first choice and a second choice and a third choice, it sure isn't the system's fault.

With a plurality vote for the two positions in a runoff, you can end up with bizarre combinations based on split votes. Norman Solomon should have made the runoff in CD-2, but didn't due to split votes. A Democrat should have in CD-31 (and been the favorite in November), but didn't due to split votes. Heck, going to back to 1975,as Welch does, Feinstein should have made that runoff, but didn't due to split votes.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

>"With RCV, if you leave the voting booth not knowing whether you voted for a first choice and a second choice and a third choice, it sure isn't the system's fault."

Oh, I absolutely knew which 3 choices I had made. The only problem is that I didn't know how my vote would be counted and for who.

Let's say that I voted (1) Avalos (2) Lee (3) Dufty.

As I left the booth, I knew that there would be an instant run-off that would determine our next Mayor. But did I vote FOR the first Asian American mayor? Did I vote AGAINST the first Asian American mayor? Or did I not even have a vote in the final tally?

All of those three options were possible AFTER I left the voting booth.

See, the more you think about RCV the weaker more appalling you realize it is.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

when what we should really be focusing on is the elimination of public financing. What a joke that turned out to be - tens of zombie candidates sucking off the public teat, most staying in the race to promote their run for either another office or for a job (Bevan Dufty). Public financing is an abortion which needs to be dealt with quickly and harshly.

Posted by Troll II on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

That's like saying you don't know who you voted for if you don't know whether your candidate won or not when you left the booth. RCV allows you to specify that your vote should transfer if your preferred candidate is eliminated. If not knowing whether or not that happens (based on what OTHER VOTERS preferred) keeps you up at night, just select only one choice. Why should you your irrational fear prevent me from having a transferrable vote?

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

Your argument indeed is pathetic, my friend.

Your ballot counts for one candidate at a time: period. It's as if the whole city is in a big convention hall, with each voter standing behind his or her favorite candidate. You keep standing there as long as your favorite candidate is not in a last place.

But if that happens, your candidate loses. So you walk over to your second choice.That's all there is to it.

In your case, your ranked Avalos first. He's your guy. He never goes to last place, so you get to vote for your favorite guy and against everyone else.

But... if he had lost at some point by being in last, you would have had your ballot count for Lee as your favorite. Your ballot "walks over to him" as your second choice.

There's a reason that RCV is called instant runoff voting.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 1:29 am

Thanks again for telling me that the way I approach my vote is pathetic. RCV people just don't seem to have very much respect for the will of the voter.

Let me tell you what you got wrong with your cute little convention analogy. If I'm at a convention and my guy is eliminated in round 1 I can then decide what I want to do with my vote given the new information that I have. Nobody is telling me that I HAVE to now cast my vote for a specific candidate based on what I did before I had the new information.

Perhaps I realize after the first round that there is a real possibility of a Chinese American winner so I decide that I now want to support that. Can't do it with your stupid RCV system. My vote would have to be used another way against my will.

Great system.

Hey, friend, the list of cities using RCV is small but we've already seen Burlington and Aspen abandon it.

The list of cities using September Mayoral primaries is impressive. Boston, New York, Washington DC...

Can you tell me how many cities have abandoned September Mayoral primaries?

Didn't think so.

The most pathetic thing around here is the way that its dim, slow witted RCV supporters do whatever they can to mislead the public about the flaws of their pathetic system.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 6:38 am

And Burlington and Aspen repeals were led by sour grapes candidates who spend the most money in their RCV races, but lost.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2012 @ 8:22 am

So the voters who rejected the well heeled candidates in IRV succumbed to their sour grapes appeals in an IRV repeal ballot measure? Sounds like you went to the Steve Hill School of Political Science to arrive at that conclusion.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 16, 2012 @ 9:32 am

Wait is this Calvin Welch agreeing with the likes of Farrell, Elsbernd, and Wiener? Just curious.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

The thing I notice the two factions who oppose RCV/IVR have in common is that what they really want is a system that elects more of their candidates.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

Calvin Welch and I agree, mark your calendars.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

Lots of what Calvin Welch writes can be disputed. Ask San Leandro's Tony Santos if RCV is good for incumbents. Ask Don Perata if RCV favors the big money guy sitting back and not hustling in communities for votes.

But let's say you grant it all. Why not support David Chiu's alternative rather than Olague's? Chiu keeps the familiar November-December combination. Olague's doesn't. Chiu uses RCV in the first round to make sure the two candidates advancing to the runoff are representative candidates. Olague invites split votes and spoilers. Chiu's proposal means that all the other offices would be elected at the same time as the mayor. Olague's would mean that in lopsided years like 2011, the mayor's race would be done in September before the other offices are elected.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

Well, Chiu's proposal doesn't save money or time, which is the reason most San Franciscans voted for IRV/RCV.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

It's ridiculous to claim that Wiener is "far to the right of the average voter in D8". Perhaps the author can't accept that the majority of D8 voters have moved past the false dichotomy of Progressive vs Moderate.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

Most of whom are professionals, highly educated and quite bourgeois. There is no longer any revolutionary consciousness amongst most GLBT people - who are now concerned not just with survival but with fabulousness, luxury and acquisition.

Posted by Troll II on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

District 8, better known as the Log Cabin Club.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 6:33 am

Prof. Cook - University San Francisco's resident RCV experts' testimony based on study of SF's RCV:

"Communities with higher proportion of Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latino residents, older voters and actually progressive communities were more likely to make an error on the (RCV) ballot. Overall (citywide) 1.3% of the people in SF made and error that could invalidate their ballot using RCV. In some precincts the figure was almost 10%"!!!!

Note: According to the SF Department of Elections, the recent Gov's race had 0.13% ballots errors in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

This basura has been debunked. In the top two primary this year, error rates for minorities in SF were *even higher* than the RCV error rates. It's not the RCV, it's more opportunities for mistakes with more choices on the ballot.

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

test any argument, in their incessant attempts at rolling back the wheels of progress.

Remember when we had district elections... and then we didn't any longer? They claimed that district elections were the cause of Harvey Milk's murder. Then the city sufferecd through years of having the likes of Barbara Kaufmann on the board doing the bidding of the corporations and big landowners.

Oh, they'll come up with plenty of "reasons" to convince people to vote against their own best interests. That's the only way they can win in a democracy.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

Diabolical_mdog, aka Mike Hunter, simply parrots what he gets from the RCV Defenders e-mail list.

All credible scientific analysis has shown overall rates of overvotes are minuscule (<0.2%) in typical elections.

Just cause you read it on that Internet thing doesn't make it true.

If you can remember, the big story on all the TV news leading up through election day was not the issues facing the city, or the different candidates, but how confusing RCV was to the AVERAGE voter (those that don't "blog" or comment in forums)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

Here are some more helpful figures:

The June 5 top two primary led to far greater numbers of overvotes than have RCV contests in San Francisco. In the U.S. Senate race, for example, the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood (which is predominately African-American) had an overvote rate of 3.91% in the June 5 “top two” primary. Yet in the 2011 mayoral election using RCV, the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood had an overvote rate of 0.88%, less than a fourth of the overvote rate seen in the U.S. Senate race. This pattern held in every San Francisco neighborhood. In some neighborhoods – especially the most minority neighborhoods – the overvote rates were three to five times greater in the recent U.S. Senate race than in the 2011 mayoral election using RCV. This pattern also held for the city as a whole, where
the overvote rate in the U.S. Senate race was 1.56% (1.88% for vote-by-mail ballots) but in the 2011 mayoral election (using RCV) it was only 0.41%.

In Oakland, the US Senate overvote rate was 4.52%. But Oakland’s overvote rate for the 2010 mayoral election using ranked choice voting was only 0.3%. That means Oakland’s overvote rate in the US Senate race was about fifteen times higher than what it was in its RCV race for mayor. And
that was in a race where the incumbent Senator, Dianne Feinstein, was widely known and a clear frontrunner.

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

You are comparing apples to tennis shoes.

If you look at the mistakes made on RCV ballots, they are much higher, but you conveniently remove these from your calculation/comparisons (or those you parrot)

If I voted for Ed Lee as choice #1
Herrera and Chui as #2
Yee, Alioto and Adachi as #3

Would I be included in your .88% calculation? No, you do not count this. YOU count me as a educated voter who filled out my ballot correctly.

If you really want to find the true understanding of he voter, you look at the whole ballot. Otherwise it's like giving a student an A+ on his final exam because he got the first question correct and you stopped grading after that.


Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

Tell us what your preferred method of calculation for RCV is and what the number is for 2011. If it is at all credible, it will still be less than comparable overvote rates in at least one of the June 5 non-RCV contests.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

The San Francisco LAFCo report found an average overvote rate for San Francisco's vote-for-N contests to be 0.34%. The use a formula that understates the phenomenon in those contests, but if you think their calculations are overstating the rate or are not credible or unscientific in some way, please explain.

I remember several stories before the election. The ones about RCV voter confusion were overplayed and poorly supported, propaganda from the corporate media.

But I also know there were stories about Ed Lee's supporters breaking election law, accompanied by photgraphic evidence. Wonder why we never heard any follow up on that?

If you're smart enough not to believe everything you read on the Internet, you're smart enough understand the failures of TV news and other large corporate media.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

There is a problem IMO with too many elections. Looked at cynically, it is a way of making it harder to translate voter opinion into election results. Reducing unnecessary elections is a worthy progressive cause (if for some reason the demographics around who turns out for small elections aren't convincing enough).

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

Re negative campaigning, I don't think any election system could fix that with 1 or 2 strong candidates running (and RCV can't produce large numbers of strong candidates overnight)

Re voter turnout, those numbers are always going to be dominated by the personalities involved in the race. The right number to look at is how many voters don't end up dropping out at a low turn-out primary or runoff. Mayoral runoffs get good numbers, but not others (the Chiu proposal nails this).

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

suffers from the same and usual flaw. He views different voting systems ONLY from the POV of "his side" winning rather than based on fairness, balance and equity.

The political problem isn't how to get a loser to somehow miraculously win an election he/she otherwise could never win. It's to give the "right" result in a simpler and cheaper way.

Until Welch and SFBG get that, it's just so much whinery and coulda woulda shoulda.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

If Welch represents progressive thinking, no wonder progressives are not winning more elections.

First, nearly everyone agrees that RCV has reduced negative campaigning. Even Dennis Herrera. The Ph.D. thesis by Denise Robb research the issue and concluded there was a reduction. If Welch thinks the last mayoral election was a negative free-for-all, it is because he has forgotten what the 2003 runoff between Gonzalez and Newsom was like. Sure, some folks like "nuclear warfare" campaigning. But it is a specious argument for Welch to say that because RCV has not eliminated negative campaigning altogether, then it has not reduced it either.

Second, the turnout promise of RCV was that it would eliminate the use of low-turnout elections. RCV has delivered on that promise. San Francisco has never had a 16% turnout election with RCV the way it did with runoffs and Supervisors have consistently been elected with more votes under RCV. Welch can argue that low-turnout elections are an historical progressive ideal if he wants.

Third, the 2011 mayoral election was only nominally competitive. The nature of the race changed after it became apparent that it was not going to be a contest for an open seat, that the incumbent with high approval ratings would run after all. Candidates, donors, consultants, and voters realized this and adjusted their participation accordingly. Don't believe that the use of RCV was a contributing factor, let alone the dominant factor, for the low turnout.

Fourth, there is nothing democratic or progressive about giving a voter only one choice on how their vote is counted when reducing a field of 16 candidates down to only one or two. That effectively disenfranchises voters and results in many more exhausted votes than RCV has had. There is nothing progressive about limiting voters to only one choice in an election unless you also believe voters are dumb. If Welch simplistically thinks more elections are better and likes runoffs, he should propose having an election per week to eliminate candidates until only the best remains.

Fifth, Welch ignores how much politicians under the old system made deals among themselves to decide who would and who would not be allowed to even put their name on the ballot. That practice is not an historical progressive ideal.

Sixth, the 2002 ballot arguments against RCV that Welch cites are embarrassingly non-progressive in their substance: don't try anything new and voters will be confused by the simplest changes. David Looman signed an argument against RCV and against the Green Party.

I appreciate that there is not unanimity among San Francisco progressives about whether and how to change RCV. But Welch embarrasses himself with his arguments and just gets too many facts wrong.

Posted by David Cary on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

First, I want to know shit about the candidates before I vote for them. Electoral politics is not a nicey nice operation under single member districts. Campaigns should not be artificially nice-ified either.

Second, Low turnout elections have been in December, the proposals on the table include November runoffs often during big ticket races which would mean even more turnout for focused local runoff races.

Third, IRV did not help raise voter turnout in 2011.

Fourth, Couldn't we say that IRV is not progressive because IRV does not solve the problems of single member districts or implement preference voting or any other range of electoral reforms? Who's to say that having more than one choice counted in a single election is more democratic than having a chance to see the top two candidates focus the discussion of the election in a runoff? Either agree with me on electoral policy or you think that the voters are dumb? Really, has it come to that, are you all this desperate?

Fifth, There have never been barriers to running for office in San Francisco. Anyone can do it, almost everyone does it. IRV has no impact on ballot access.

Sixth, I opposed IRV a decade ago for the same reason why I oppose it today and support repeal in a September/November model: IRV deprives popular political forces of focused organizing opportunities that have historically helped build capacity increasingly over time. It is like IRV was a progressive suicide pact in this most important regard.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

Even accepting your logic, the September-November combination makes no sense for an alleged progressive when you have Chiu's progressive alternative. Chiu has a November-December runoff that will keep high turnout in both rounds and will avoid split votes in the first round (like the Norman Solomon congressional race this year, where he didn't make the runoff due to split votes).

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 1:35 am

Perhaps if you use the adjective "progressive" a few more times, you might make your case? As it is, you don't use the adjective "progressive" enough times and don't use the adjective "progressive" correctly enough for me to understand what you are trying to convey, as your post is simply not "progressive" enough.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 7:12 am

I would respect this more if it wasn't such a transparent way to try to give Olague some (much-needed) progressive credibility. If Olague thought she was doing the good progressive thing she wouldn't be so hesitant to talk or explain herself. Calvin Welch has made his bed with Christina Olague. If she loses he loses too.

What surprises me is how bad Olague has turned out to be--thin-skinned, short-tempered, in way over her head and unable to stand up for anything on her own. And apparently a little lazy too. I thought she was going to have to do a balancing act--backing the mayor on some things, bucking him on others. But there's been no balancing at all.

If we really want a better system maybe we should do away with appointments. Look at what we have now. An appointed (then elected) Mayor. An appointed (then elected) District Attorney. An appointed Sheriff. An appointed Supervisor. When an appointment is made all the established groups make their deals (better the devil you know) and bestow much of the power of incumbency on people like Christina who've never won an election and maybe don't really know their job--since they haven't, you know, ever campaigned for it. If you want to talk about a flawed system....

Posted by gust on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

You seem to have a motive to be anti-Olague - as if you are a candidate running against her or working for such a person. She was the only supe to vote against the plasticization and toxification of the Beach Chalet soccer fields in GG Park - a project that was sponsored by the rightwing Republican billionaire Donald Fisher, and a project that was blatantly against the GG Park Master Plan. And yet the supes approved an EIR for it that was so obviously fraudulent - except Olague.

All the supes kissed Phil Ginsberg's ass in approving the EIR (except Olague) - just like they did when Ginsberg fought hard to take the Stow Lake Boathouse contract away from the SF family that had ran it for decades so a New Mexico corporation could get the contract.

To ensure the NM corp ("the Ortega Group") got the contract, Ginsberg told the Ortega Group to hire his friend from the Newsom admin, political consultant Alex Tourk (whose wife Newsom had sex with). Tourk goes and then PAYS PEOPLE to attend Planning Commission meetings where they would give comments favorable to the Ortega Group. This is the level of corruption that Ginsberg employs - yet all the supes backed him up in the Stow Lake vote and in the Beach Chalet EIR vote, even so-called "progressives" like Avalos and Mar.

I do agree that too many ppl are appointed that have too much power - the obvious one being Phil Ginsberg (GM of Rec & Park). The unelected bureaucrat Ginsberg can really do whatever he wants - including turning 9 acres of GG Park from grass to plastic turf and a million pounds of toxic tire particles and also install 60 foot stadium lights there, even though all that is blatantly against the GG Park Master Plan.

And yet, about the only way to stop Ginsberg is to put it on the ballot because the supes - except Olague in at least one case - NEVER stand up to him. I strongly urge ppl to SERIOUSLY CONSIDER voting against any of the current supes in the Nov election - ESPECIALLY MAR and except Olague because she was the only one to vote against Ginsberg.

Ginsberg should not have the incredible power he does without having to face the voters. He was only appointed because he had been Newsom's Chief of Staff so it was totally insider politics that got him the job. Then he goes and does Don Fisher's bidding in removing grass from all our parks and putting in plastic turn - even GG Park - and is backed up 100% of the way by the supes including the "progressives" - my ass they're progressives.

Any one on any City commission with real power should not be appointed but should have to face the voters. This would take away the ridiculous power that Ginsberg and the jokes on the Rec & Park commission (and Planning Commission) have - power they didn't earn.

The supes - even the so-called progressives like Mar and Avalos - are appearing more and more like the supes that were there when Willie Brown was mayor. Maybe it's time EVERYONE OF THEM (except Olague) be thrown out just like all the supes that kissed WB's ass were.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

>"That effectively disenfranchises voters and results in many more exhausted votes than RCV has had."

I'm not sure if this is a typo or not but it seems to be completely untrue.

Exhausted Votes are unique to RCV and in fact they point out one of its most serious flaws.

We never had a single 'Exhausted' vote in the traditional run-off system. Any registered voter was welcome to participate in the December run-off, regardless of what they did in November. During the last two traditional Mayoral run-offs a large number of people who didn't even vote in November turned out to vote in December.

Contrast that with RCV where, if you don't vote for the right people you have to sit and watch while the algorithm tallys the 2nd and 3rd choices of others to determine who your Mayor will be.

In one system every voter had the opportunity to focus their decision on the top two candidates. In RCV a cadre of 'exhausted' voters just watch from the sidelines.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

If I vote in a two-person election for candidate A, but candidate B wins, was my ballot "exhausted"? (Was I "disenfranchised"?) That's not the word people use for it, but it's the same condition that happens in an RCV election: My vote didn't end up in a pile that corresponded to the winner of the election. If your ballot is "exhausted" in an RCV election, it means that you didn't care for any of the candidates who are left. How did I suddenly get disenfranchised again? Just because somebody happens to have a ballot that agrees with other ballots more than yours does doesn't mean that they have more of a franchise than me.

Posted by diabolical_mdog on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

My statement was not a typo. But your doubts about it highlight how confused people are about traditional runoff systems.

The general idea is that if your vote did not count for the winner (or the candidates that advance to the next round of the contest) and it did not count for the runner up, then your vote was exhausted. This can happen a lot in the first round of a two-round runoff system. A vote-for-one plurality election is just an instant-runoff election where voters are restricted to marking only one choice, not three.

This is one of the key reasons that even if you like a separate runoff, Chiu's proposal is much better than Farrell's proposal retricted to just the Mayor's contest. With Chiu's proposal, there will be many fewer exhausted votes in the first round, especially when there are more than a few substantial candidates on the ballot.

San Francisco's vote-for-N plurality contests for Board of Education and Community College Board also have higher rates of exhausted votes and higher rates of invalid votes on average than RCV contests.

Posted by David Cary on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

No, I don't think that I was confused at all, until you started applying the the RCV term 'exhausted ballots' to an area where it doesn't exist.

If we had used a traditional run-off system last November I might have gone to the poll and voted for Phil Ting. The next day in the newspaper I would read that my candidate wasn't one of the top two. Bummer.

Come December I would go back to the poll for the run-off because I now think that Avalos is the best choice. The poll workers would NOT tell me to go home because I voted for Ting last time. I would be able to make the best possible decision between the Lee-Avalos remaining option.

So MY vote was never exhausted. Only RCV exhausts my votes and excludes my votes from the final tally that declares a winner.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 6:53 am

There is no progressive or conservative answer to IRV versus runoffs, just tradeoffs that seem to have fair arguments on both sides that benefit and detract from each side.

This is a matter of subjective preference, not an objective test of political ideology.

I prefer runoffs. I see no problem with September primaries of either IRV or first two past the post and a November runoff. This setup to me is preferable to a November/December system.

Bottom line: popular political forces do well burying the hatchets and generating energy that brings more people into the process during runoffs.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

The vetting value of the run-offs just disappear with RCV. Using the Ed Jew example, would his issues have been discovered during a run-off? It is a lot easier to pick up on these things when you are focused against one opponent as opposed to ten. Also, RCV supporters, you can't say that the run-offs are all about negative campaigning without admitting that occasionally all of that scrutiny can be a good thing.

People have said of Jean Quan that it would have benefited her to have spent two months engaging the voters as one of two possible candidates. That their relationship would have been much different than it is now.

Like I said, RCV has too many problems to list on one internet.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

No election system can solve the Jean Quan v. Don Perata problem.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

>"No election system can solve the Jean Quan v. Don Perata problem."

I would agree except that, if not for RCV, every article about Quan's problems would not include a reminder that she actually came in 2nd but "was declared the winner based on Oakland's system of RCV".

Doesn't help.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 6:59 am

But if Perata "was declared the winner based on Oakland's system of RCV" then everything would be hunky dory?

Look, Oakland is so messed up that one reason why I call for all employees of political nonprofits and public unions who don't live in San Francisco to be fired and replaced with unemployed San Franciscans.

Oakland has its own problems that we don't need a professional class of political operatives commuting into San Francisco when there is enough work undone in their home towns.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 7:21 am

There are many indications that when more than 2 candidates run for office using a traditional majority system, that splitting of votes occurs. Just look at the last TOP 2 primary. All of the Supes listed in the OP ED who won in the 2002 election won during an anti-Willie Brown streak. Not because it was easy to win runoffs for progressives. Willie Brown has been against RCV because with RCV its more difficult to game the system. He appears to have his hand in the pie again, being one of the movers and shakers behind Ed Lee's appointment and run for office.... And now the mayor wanting to eliminate RCV and put pressure on supervisors to vote to eliminate it. I thought we got rid of Willie Brown and now here his machine is back again wanting to go back to the old system of hand picked candidates and discouraging other candidates from running due to spoiler effect, thus limiting the possibilities of progressive candidates with less wealthy backing who enlarge the breadth of ideas and discussion during election time. I have seen a lot more cooperation and support among candidates running under RCV and believe it has reduced negative campaigning. The negative campaigning during the last mayor race was due to Ed Lee's decision to run as the incumbant after promising the Board that he WOULD NOT RUN. The essential public financing that SF candidates have access to had some flaws that have recently been changed by the ethics commission and the Board of Supervisors which will help to eliminate the problems of having a plethora of candidates running who don't have enough viability. Lets give that a chance to take effect before making any other changes. We have the most diverse board we have ever had since RCV took effect. It mirrors the population of the city more than any baord before RCV. The diversity on the board before RCV come from mayoral appointments, not elections. KEEP RCV. Lets not set back SF elections when we finally are having more actual representation.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

One man's spoiler is another man's democratic patriot. People loose because they cannot muster enough support from the electorate.

Split vote? More sour grapes. If there are other (same group, ethnic, etc) candidates running against you, you have to convince the voters you are a much better choice than them. If you can't, you deserve to loose.

Seems like certain voting blocks want more than one bite of the pie by using RV.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 12:31 am

I agree with your sentiment about spoilers. The RCV people like to say that Gore would have won the 2000 election if Florida used RCV. But everyone knew that it would be a tight race and Gore should have been able to convince more Florida voters that he, not Nader, deserved their vote. He didn't and he lost.

Also, spoilers work both ways. Meg Whitman could be the spoiler next time for candidates Santorum or Rubio.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 7:07 am

If Gore had not lost Florida and had not Nader to blame, then the Democrats would not have spent the 2000s framing the Greens for electing Bush and instead could have fought the Republicans.

Nah, not really. When the Republicans win, they attack the Democrats. When the Democrats win, they attack the Democrat Party base.

My take is that the reason why liberal, progressive and (real) moderate voters eschew Green Party and don't vote for our candidates is not because of fear of spoiling, rather that most Green Party candidates are wing nuts to whom few would hand over the keys to the government.

It is never your opponent's or the system's fault when you lose.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 7:24 am

but as much as I remember other Democrats casting such aspersions, I also recall many quite properly pointing out how glib, flip, and facile media lies about Gore cost him votes. I remember the incompetent -- often Democratic -- election administrators cost Gore votes; if not because they didn't empty chads from the votamatic machines and change "T-strips" then certainly because of the 35,000 miscast votes due to the illegal butterfly ballot.

I remember Democrats and other progressives quite properly pointing out how Jeb Bush's AG illegally "caged" voters throughout the state.

The Green Party is a mixed bag, if that's what your point was when you make the extremist claim that "most" of them are "wing nuts" then I agree.

As for your last sentence, that might be the right frame of mind to adopt, but it is hardly accurate.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 7:49 am

And became President of the United States if he had done just ONE thing:

Win his OWN HOME STATE of Tennessee, a State he and his father represented for many, many years. But he didn't.

Just sayin.......

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 8:26 am

and thus it's not correct to imply he was a representative of Tenn (beyond being a rep of every state) or to call it his home state. For the previous 8 years, he did nothing more for Tenn than he had done for any other state. And during those 8 years, you had the rise of Faux TV and a big move to the right in Southern states where Faux's propaganda caught on.

So it's absurd to blame Gore for not winning "his home state" of Tenn in 2000.

Nader deserves blame for doing all he could to get the disaster GWB elected (which we are still paying for today due to GWB's two disastrous Supreme Court picks) as does Gore not going hard against Bush.

Gore should also be criticized for not ripping the Supreme Court's pro-Bush ruling that took away from the state of Florida the power to control their own elections - one of the bedrock principles of the Constitution.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2012 @ 4:20 pm