Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October Op-Eds Weave RCV Spell over Minneapolis

Minneapolis is conducting their local elections by ranked choice voting (AKA instant runoff voting) for the second time this November. I've already written about this a number of times. But with the election drawing closer, RCV proponents are getting op-eds published in an attempt to hype the systems purported advantages.

Please indulge me while I reiterate my refutations of these common, and false, RCV talking points.

  • RCV does not "ensure majority outcomes": With the large number of candidates running for mayor, and the inability of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party to settle on an endorsement, there is an extremely high likelihood that the winner of that election will not have a majority of the votes cast, since a large number of votes will be exhausted. But be on the lookout, because reported results will likely conceal the total number of ballots cast, as they did in the 2010 Oakland mayoral election, giving only the number of "continuing ballots" in the final round.
  • RCV does not "encourage more respectful campaigns": We know this because of experience in California. It does seems that the first couple RCV elections are more respectful, but this is solely because of RCV advocates' claiming this to be true, and uncertain politicians being afraid that they might be right. But after having some experience with the new system, trying some negative ads, and seeing the effect on their polling, the politicians realize they've been tricked, and go back to their old ways.
  • RCV does not eliminate "fear of a wasted vote": This is the most persistent RCV myth, because it appears true at first glance. And it is true... when there are only two significant candidates. Since most elections have only two significant candidates, it can take quite some time for the truth to come out. But we only need to look at Burlington, VT to remind ourselves. It's unclear if we'll see it in Minneapolis this year though. I give it about 1-in-5 odds of occurring.

I do agree with the op-ed authors that this is perhaps the most important test of RCV yet. And I've already made one testable prediction about the outcome of these races: That the mayoral race winner will not win a majority of the votes cast. And now, I'd like to add a second testable prediction, one for which I have even higher confidence: There will be a higher percentage of spoiled ballots for this election than there were in the 2005 election (the last one before the change to RCV). This op-ed didn't repeat the claim, but previous ones had implied (falsely) there was only one spoiled ballot in the 2009 election. The actual rate was over 4.1%, while the 2005 rate was less than 1.1%. I expect similar performance this year.

Those are my claims. If any RCV proponent would like to make a friendly wager of it, you can step up in the comments.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Defined Measures

I give a lot of guff to FairVote and their Executive Director, Rob Richie, because of their stance on instant runoff voting. (They love it. I hate it.) But there's a lot more topics in the sphere of technocratic election reform, and on almost all other issues, we agree vehemently. But I especially want to call out Richie's (and Andrea Levien's) latest in the Huffington Post, on the topic of voter ID laws.

Richie and Levien point out something I hadn't even noticed: That voter ID proponents play fast-and-loose with measures of voter turnout, in order to minimize the apparent problems with it. In short, ID proponents cite measurements of turnout among registered voters as evidence that voter ID isn't problematic, when measurements of turnout among eligible voters tells a very different—and probably more truthful—story.

Read the whole piece, and remember two things. One, that you always need to be precise when defining what you're measuring. And two, that, despite the things we disagree about, election reform advocates still have a lot that we can agree on.