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Re: Anti-IRV op-ed

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  • jimrtex4192
    ... At the time IRV was approved, San Francisco was defending in court its practice of not permitting write-ins in conventional runoffs. There was nothing in
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 1, 2010
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      --- In RangeVoting@yahoogroups.com, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd@...> wrote:

      > Compare this to the ballot arguments in San Francisco in 2002:
      >
      > http://sfpl4.sfpl.org/pdffiles/March5_2002.pdf
      >
      > The Ballot Simplification Committee got it wrong, see page 39.
      >
      > >A
      > >winner would still have to receive more than 50% of the vote.
      >
      > Note that the phrase "50% of the vote" is used previously in a
      > description of the existing system. If the definition of "majority"
      > is used as has been invented by FairVote to justify thinking that it
      > refers to "majority of the ballots for candidates where the voter has
      > ranked one of the remaining candidates," it's clearly different from
      > the previous usage. Further, this is stated as some requirement that
      > the winner must meet. With the FairVote interpretation, it's purely a
      > mathematical device, a certainty. And, as has been pointed out many
      > times, apply this to one more round of counting, and you could claim
      > that the winner had to get "all the votes." All the votes that
      > weren't for anyone but the winner.
      >
      > No, anyone reading the pamphlet who wasn't intimately familiar with
      > how IRV works, and who didn't notice that the measure removed the
      > language requiring a majority from the election code, would think
      > that "50% of the votes" meant what it always has meant: a vote from
      > half of all voters. Sure. Impossible to guarantee in a single ballot.
      > But none of the opponents noticed this, read the opposing arguments and weep.

      At the time IRV was approved, San Francisco was defending in court its practice of not permitting write-ins in conventional runoffs.
      There was nothing in the city charter that supported this practice, but the elections department had adopted it because the ballot arguments made when the conventional runoff was approved in 1973 said that it would produce a majority. If you have write-in votes you might not have a majority, so they disallowed write-in votes.

      If you look at the actual text of the charter change, you can see the conventional runoff provisions that were in place at the time said nothing about a majority in the runoff, but simply conditioned a runoff on the lack of a majority.

      > There *are* some good arguments there, by the way. This was a March
      > poll. The opposition points out that IRV has been used in many
      > places, and rescinded. Interesting that FairVote almost never points
      > that out....

      The IRV proposition was on the 2002 statewide primary ballot. In California, ballot propositions are generally collected and place on the next election where all voters participate. So SF will vote on city propositions at statewide primaries and general elections, as well as city elections. California even had a couple of propositions on the ballot at the same time as the recall election for Grey Davis in 2003. Both the city and state may also call special elections for considering ballot proposals.

      When SF got rid of district supervisor elections the first time, it was at a special election. In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger called a special statewide election to consider several ballot propositions. This happened to coincide with what otherwise would have been a lackluster city election. Advocates of IRV cite the 2005 election as prove of the effectiveness of IRV of increasing turnout, particularly among minority voters. What actually happened was the Democratic Party in an attempt to embarrass the governor pushed opposition turnout, which increased participation among minorities who would otherwise not have bothered to vote in an election for City Attorney and Treasurer.

      The Year mod 4 equals 1 election is always light turnout in SF, because the City Attorney and Treasurer offices are of low importance, no one really has a clue what the officers holders do, and you'd really hope that neither office would be making policy decisions, so that you can really only campaign on the basis of competency. It was very rare to have more than two candidates, and quite often there was only 1 candidate.

      In 2001, turnout in November was 30%, and a runoff was triggered. Turnout for the runoff was 17%. This resulted in the board of supervisors putting the IRV proposition on the March 2002 ballot. Ironically, some of those supervisors would not have been elected supervisor if IRV had been used in 2000.

      In 2005, turnout was 54%, but that was because of the statewide election that day. Nonetheless IRV proponents claim that this shows that IRV massively increases turnout, especially among minorities.

      In 2009, turnout was 23%.

      In the early 1970s when SF still used plurality elections, there was a proposition that would have switched to the use of a non-partisan primary in which the Top 2 would advance to the general elections. In the case of the mayors race, this would in practice have been rarely different than a majority-conditional runoff. But for minor offices, such as the two contested in Year Mod 4 Equal 1 years, it could have meant an extra election. So the proposition would have made the Treasurer an appointed position, and moved the election of City Attorney to an even year, where the statewide primary and general election could have been used.
    • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
      ... However, creating a majority by eliminating candidates is obviously antidemocratic. It s a false or coerced majority. The last election in which top two
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 10, 2010
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        At 11:56 PM 1/1/2010, jimrtex4192 wrote:
        >At the time IRV was approved, San Francisco was defending in court
        >its practice of not permitting write-ins in conventional runoffs.
        >There was nothing in the city charter that supported this
        >practice, but the elections department had adopted it because the
        >ballot arguments made when the conventional runoff was approved in
        >1973 said that it would produce a majority. If you have write-in
        >votes you might not have a majority, so they disallowed write-in votes.

        However, creating a majority by eliminating candidates is obviously
        antidemocratic. It's a false or coerced majority. The last election
        in which top two runoff was used was also the first election where
        write-ins were prohibited. The prohibition was new, and it went to
        the California Supreme Court. Bloddy waste of money, actually, and
        apparently to prevent one specific write-in campaign that might have succeeded.

        >If you look at the actual text of the charter change, you can see
        >the conventional runoff provisions that were in place at the time
        >said nothing about a majority in the runoff, but simply conditioned
        >a runoff on the lack of a majority.

        Write-ins had always been allowed. The question would have been what
        to do if there was majority failure in the runoff, and that was, I
        believe, settled law. In Long Beach, there was a runoff election with
        no majority found, due to two write-in candidates. One of them got
        just shy of a majority, enough to defeat the only candidate on the
        ballot. Why was there a runoff with only one candidate?

        Cool eh? California law provided for mayoral term limits (or was it
        just Long Beach law?). The incumbent was prohibited from being on the
        ballot. But not prohibited from being elected. She ran as a write-in,
        and gained a plurality in the primary. And then again in the runoff,
        from which she was still prohibited from appearing as a named candidate.

        > > There *are* some good arguments there, by the way. This was a March
        > > poll. The opposition points out that IRV has been used in many
        > > places, and rescinded. Interesting that FairVote almost never points
        > > that out....
        >
        >The IRV proposition was on the 2002 statewide primary ballot.

        In other words, in an election when relatively few voters vote....

        >In California, ballot propositions are generally collected and place
        >on the next election where all voters participate. So SF will vote
        >on city propositions at statewide primaries and general elections,
        >as well as city elections. California even had a couple of
        >propositions on the ballot at the same time as the recall election
        >for Grey Davis in 2003. Both the city and state may also call
        >special elections for considering ballot proposals.
        >
        >When SF got rid of district supervisor elections the first time, it
        >was at a special election. In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger called
        >a special statewide election to consider several ballot
        >propositions. This happened to coincide with what otherwise would
        >have been a lackluster city election. Advocates of IRV cite the
        >2005 election as prove of the effectiveness of IRV of increasing
        >turnout, particularly among minority voters. What actually happened
        >was the Democratic Party in an attempt to embarrass the governor
        >pushed opposition turnout, which increased participation among
        >minorities who would otherwise not have bothered to vote in an
        >election for City Attorney and Treasurer.
        >
        >The Year mod 4 equals 1 election is always light turnout in SF,
        >because the City Attorney and Treasurer offices are of low
        >importance, no one really has a clue what the officers holders do,
        >and you'd really hope that neither office would be making policy
        >decisions, so that you can really only campaign on the basis of
        >competency. It was very rare to have more than two candidates, and
        >quite often there was only 1 candidate.
        >
        >In 2001, turnout in November was 30%, and a runoff was
        >triggered. Turnout for the runoff was 17%. This resulted in the
        >board of supervisors putting the IRV proposition on the March 2002
        >ballot. Ironically, some of those supervisors would not have been
        >elected supervisor if IRV had been used in 2000.

        Low turnout, I've come to realize, is not any kind of indication of
        poor election quality. That's a knee-jerk assumption behind a lot of
        nonsense. Let those who care decide. That's a Range Voting principle!
        Turning out to vote is an expression, typically, of sincere
        preference strength.

        >In 2005, turnout was 54%, but that was because of the statewide
        >election that day. Nonetheless IRV proponents claim that this shows
        >that IRV massively increases turnout, especially among minorities.

        Top Two Runoff can increase turnout, when the runoff is important. It
        really happens big time when center squeeze produces a Lizard vs.
        Wizard election. IRV probably doesn't, in the long run, increase
        turnout. What increases turnout is voting process that produces
        results that make a difference in people's lives. The method that
        would truly increase turnout would be Asset, where every vote counts,
        and the voters can tell.

        >In 2009, turnout was 23%.

        Sauce for the gander.

        >In the early 1970s when SF still used plurality elections, there was
        >a proposition that would have switched to the use of a non-partisan
        >primary in which the Top 2 would advance to the general
        >elections. In the case of the mayors race, this would in practice
        >have been rarely different than a majority-conditional runoff. But
        >for minor offices, such as the two contested in Year Mod 4 Equal 1
        >years, it could have meant an extra election. So the proposition
        >would have made the Treasurer an appointed position, and moved the
        >election of City Attorney to an even year, where the statewide
        >primary and general election could have been used.

        Thanks.
      • jimrtex4192
        ... That s interesting about 1999 being the first election with the write-in ban - since SF s argument before the court was based on the ballot *arguments*
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 12, 2010
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          --- In RangeVoting@yahoogroups.com, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd@...> wrote:
          >
          > At 11:56 PM 1/1/2010, jimrtex4192 wrote:
          > >At the time IRV was approved, San Francisco was defending in court
          > >its practice of not permitting write-ins in conventional runoffs.
          > >There was nothing in the city charter that supported this
          > >practice, but the elections department had adopted it because the
          > >ballot arguments made when the conventional runoff was approved in
          > >1973 said that it would produce a majority. If you have write-in
          > >votes you might not have a majority, so they disallowed write-in votes.
          >
          > However, creating a majority by eliminating candidates is obviously
          > antidemocratic. It's a false or coerced majority. The last election
          > in which top two runoff was used was also the first election where
          > write-ins were prohibited. The prohibition was new, and it went to
          > the California Supreme Court. Bloddy waste of money, actually, and
          > apparently to prevent one specific write-in campaign that might have succeeded.

          That's interesting about 1999 being the first election with the write-in ban - since SF's argument before the court was based on the ballot *arguments* made in 1973 which said that a runoff would ensure a majority election for mayor.

          The California Supreme Court in 1985 had overturned an explicit write-in ban in San Diego (in that case the mayor had been indicted between the June primary and the November runoff). The US Supreme Court in 1992 upheld a ban on all write-in votes in Hawaii. So SF was going against a California Supreme Court ruling, and basing their *practice* on ballot *arguments* made in 1973, with nothing in the city&county charter to actually support the practice.

          Note: In the 1999 mayoral election, Tom Ammaniano qualified for the mayoral runoff as a write-in candidate (with about 25% of the vote) against Willie Brown (37%). The California Supreme Court case was an attempt to vote for another write-in candidate in the runoff that year. It is doubtful that the other write-in candidate had much of a chance.

          Though SF's IRV law permits write-in votes, I doubt very much whether a write-in candidate could be elected. While you might be able to get voters to cast a 1st preference for a write-in candidate, what is the likelihood that you would get someone who gave their 1st preference to an on-ballot candidate, to do a write-in for a 2nd or 3rd preference? In 1999, there were about a dozen candidates on the ballot.

          > Cool eh? California law provided for mayoral term limits (or was it
          > just Long Beach law?). The incumbent was prohibited from being on the
          > ballot. But not prohibited from being elected. She ran as a write-in,
          > and gained a plurality in the primary. And then again in the runoff,
          > from which she was still prohibited from appearing as a named candidate.

          Letting term-limited incumbents run as a write-in candidate was a (attempted) stealth way of implementing congressional term limits. Running for Congress has some of the least restrictive qualifications of any office, because they are written in the US Constitution, and it is not particularly easy to change the US Constitution, relative to the ease which a state constitution is changed. For example, the residency requirement only applies to election day, so a candidate could move into a State days before an election and be elected (this has actually happened). Convicted felons have been elected, even though they could not vote for themselves. I suspect that if one were moved to a federal penitentiary outside their home state, they could still be elected from the home state.

          So an attempt was made to make congressional term limits a "manner" regulation - that is a state wasn't trying to impose an extra-constitutional qualification on candidates, but rather simply regulating how the election was conducted, by requiring long-term incumbents to be elected as write-in candidates. This was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. California still has congressional term limits of this form (Elections Code Section 8700), but they are non-enforceable.

          Some cities and States may have implemented similar regulations for city and State officials. Even though they can directly impose term limits, having a write-in "loophole" could have been cited in making a case for a similar regulation of congressional term limits (eg. "That's just the **manner** we elect folks around these here parts").
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