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Caucus resolutions for IRV

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  • Tom Ruen
    Dear IRV supporters, I got an email from FairVoteMN, noting the (early) party caucuses (Tuesday, February 5), and suggesting a caucus resolution in favor of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2008
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      Dear IRV supporters,
      I got an email from FairVoteMN, noting the (early) party caucuses (Tuesday, February 5), and suggesting a caucus resolution in favor of IRV. Linked at:
      And a resolution:
      --> BE IT RESOLVED THAT OUR PARTY:  Endorse Instant Runoff Voting for state and local elections.
      Myself, I'll be at the IP caucuses, which already has IRV on its platform:
          Responsible Governance and Leadership: Ensuring Fair Elections
              2. We support Instant Runoff Voting or another runoff process that allows us to vote our conscience and ensure that winners are supported by a majority.
      Looking at other State party platforms:
      Nothing on DFL:
      Nothing on GOP:
      YES on Green party:
          5.) IRV and Proportional Representation
              5a. Representatives to all assemblies of members (such as state and national legislatures) should be selected on the basis of their party's percent of the total votes cast. The Green Party encourages gender parity and multicultural representation in elected bodies.
              5b. Instant runoff voting/balloting should be used for all public elections in the state of Minnesota where applicable. All executive positions, such as President, Governor, Mayor, etc., should be elected by a multiple choice preference voting method.
      Nothing on Constitution Party:
      NO on Libertarian Party: (They do support a "none of the above" option to voters!) 
      I helped craft the IP wording above in 2006, desiring to keep it clear that ''majority rule'' was the goal, not any specific implementation. (I've attended both DFL (2002) and GOP (2004) caucuses with resolutions on IRV and majority rule and had worth conversations in both.)
      By "another runoff process" I wished to clarify that IRV doesn't stand alone as some strange beast to be feared, but is one of many interchangeably defendable "one-person one-vote" systems that supporting majority-rule elections, each with potentially different costs and benefits to consider.
      For example:
      1. A nonpartisan top-two primary, already used in many/most city elections, admirably supports majority rule. Its only claimed drawback is cost and lower voter turn out, but I would imagine voters in a primary are more likely the people interested in researching many candidates to make an informed choice.
      2. For partisan elections some states have an optional "December top-two runoff", triggered if the winner fails a required threshold, sometimes 40% or 50%. Again there's a cost of lower voter turnout and cost, but democracy shouldn't necessarily be controlled by cost or citizens who don't choose to participate.
      Both of these are equally legitimate alternatives to IRV, promoting majority rule, and may be more acceptable for elections while rank-preference ballots are not yet available.
      3. There is also a "top-two instant runoff" approach, using rank ballots like IRV but simulating a traditional top-two runoff, where all but the strongest two candidates are eliminated in the first round. All voters get a vote for their favorite candidate in the first round and their favorite compromise among the final two.
      This top-two variation to IRV may be me "more acceptable" in partisan elections since, unlike "bottom-up elimination IRV", it treats the top-two candidates from the plurality fairly, guaranteeing them head-to-head competition, and reduces a fear that IRV is primarily about "unfairly helping the third party candidates win".
      A top-two process retains a stronger "spoiler effect" to parties and groups that can't agree to agree before the election, while keeping open an honest door to third parties and candidates who can both inspire a large following and find respect among a majority of voters.
      Those are the three best-know approaches (all being top-two runoffs), although there's "more advanced" alternatives as well, those which support a "Condorcet winner" which give voters even more power than traditional runoffs and IRV to offer sincere preferences among 3 or more strong choices:
      4. A Condorcet elections needs no elimination, and picks a winner by simulating a set of parallel pairwise head-to-head competitions between all candidates. It picks the winner who is preferred over all others head-too-head.
      This approach can also be used within a "two round runoff" where the first round  eliminates one or more candidates based on plurality strength while the second round treats 3 or more candidates as equals using the Condorcet approach.
      I'm not willing to discount ANY of these alternatives, so that's why I advocate merely "majority rule" as the goal rather than IRV.
      Since I'm going to a IP convention this Saturday, I thought I'd ask if anyone has any opinions to the wording from the IP platform above, or interest in something similar for other party platforms.
      I admit I'm more interested in education and discussion at my caucus/conventions than advocating the necessity or form of change. Understanding and trust needs to precede wise reform.
      Caucuses are a great place to talk with neighbors, and the only downside is they encourage like-minded citizens to talk together, but does nothing to help interparty communication necessarily, and risks leaving polarized discussion without the language for wider understanding of all the issues involved.
      I appreciate any thoughts shared. (And yes, sorry, I know this email is ridiculously long!)
      On the side of educating voters, I think the LVW-MN did a great job creating a "Alternative voting study guide" for its members before they recommended IRV over some other alternative systems. (Even if they neglected recognizing the existing primary or runoff systems in their discussion.)
      Tom Ruen
      P.S. A parallel issue outside of this resolution is multi-seat elections, at-large city council and school boards. Minneapolis passed a full STV (Single Transferable Vote) implementation which allows "proportional voting power" for multiple seat elections, increasing the fraction of voters who get to influence the choice one or more of the winners compared to our existing Plurality-at-large.
      Last I heard the city of Hopkins was considering a variation for council elections, apparently called "preferential bloc voting" which counts multiple votes at once, like existing elections, and (to me) offers little advantage except to save money from eliminating a primary round.
      I'd be interested in discussion PR at my caucus, but I don't have a strong sense of how to word a new resolution. It's trickier for me to promote PR advantages since its so foreign to U.S. elections. AND when I see how the Minneapolis referendum back-doored "proportional voting" STV without clear public discussion of this change of winners, I get a little anxious about political backlash against IRV/STV which I don't want.


      BE IT RESOLVED THAT OUR PARTY:  Endorse Instant Runoff Voting for state and local elections.

      Reasons to Favor the resolution:

      Whereas, a growing number of statewide offices elected since 1998 have been decided by less than a majority of voters;

      Whereas, Instant Runoff Voting assures the winner is chosen by a majority of voters, in one election;

      Whereas, additionally, Instant Runoff Voting has been shown to

      §         Maximize voter participation and available choices of candidates

      §         Assure fairer and more accurate representation of all voters

      §         Eliminate the cost of nonpartisan city primary elections and reduce the cost of campaigns

      §         Lead to more informative and cleaner campaigns

      Whereas, Instant Runoff Voting is constitutional and supports the principle of “one-person, one vote”;

      Whereas Instant Runoff Voting was overwhelmingly adopted by Minneapolis voters in 2006 and there is an active Instant Runoff Voting ballot measure campaign in Saint Paul November;

      Whereas, Instant Runoff Voting is already being used in six US cities (San Francisco, CA; Cambridge, MA; Burlington, VT; Takoma Park, MD; and Cary and Hendersonville, NC), in three states (Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas) for overseas voters, and is pending in more than a dozen other jurisdictions throughout the country;

      Whereas, Instant Runoff Voting has cross-partisan support in Minnesota, including former Senator Dave Durenberger, former Governor Arne Carlson, state DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez, state Independence Party Chair Craig Swaggert and state Green Party Virgil Sohm;

      Whereas, Instant Runoff Voting is endorsed by the Star Tribune, the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Brookings Institute Project 08, Citizens for Election Integrity, and several other state and local organizations;


      For further information, see http://www.fairvotemn.org.

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