Thursday, June 08, 2006

IRV Demo Results

Thanks to mresquan for the heads of on the results of the Instant Runoff Voting demonstration held Tuesday. The results are here, if you haven't seen them yet. No surprises to be found there except maybe more of the Flemming voters' second votes going to Marks than I would have expected.

As Scott Menzies points out, it would be hard to make a call on the demographics involved as there was no screening of those voting to quantify who lived where and such. Still, one thing seems to hold true: More people were willing to waste their vote, on the underdog candidate. In this case that candidate being Richard Marks.

Third party advocates of IRV have used this as a selling point of IRV for some time pointing out if people would still be able to cast a vote for the more mainstream candidate(s) and have it count, they might be more willing to cast their first choice for their real preferred candidate. Whatever.

I'm not sure this race was the best one to use for an IRV demo. I would think a four way race might be more informative. But, this one demo does show one concern I have about IRV is true: It strengthens the power of the majority, which in this case is the Left. In right leaning areas those on the Right would gain any advantage that could be had from IRV.

Both Left wing candidates received the majority of votes in the first count, assuming I'm reading the results right. While I'll admit to being somewhat confused at the math, it looks like most of the votes from Flemming went to Neely, with a surprising amount going to Marks.

In this case Neely wins without the need for a runoff election. Thus, the numerical advantage the Left has is simply made more powerful using IRV. If the runoff was held, as it will be in the real world, Flemming would have one more chance to change people's minds, unlikely as that is to happen.

It's probably safe to assume, that in the runoff, the vast majority of Marks' votes will end up going to Neely, unless Flemming pulls some October surprise or a large number of former Marks voters don't go to the polls for some reason.

So, bottom line as I see it is, that while IRV does give more power to the majority opinion (not a good thing in my mind) that power will be there to a large extent, anyway, and IRV does eliminate the need for a runoff. But, the standard runoff we have now does allow the minority one last chance to make its case and stay in the game.

Nice job on the demo, though, and sorry I missed my chance to meet Scott Menzies. He was there when I voted but he wasn't at the table so I missed him.


At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IRV would force politicians to the center, not to the left or right in Humboldt County politics.

When I attended VCC's town hall forum in Eureka last year, Aldo Bongio gave that "advantage to the left argument" and that sounded right too me, but only for a minute.

Now I think the center is left right out in Humboldt Politics.

That is why voters that are the emerging center in Humboldt County gravitated to Measure T, because the conduct of super corporations that extract local cash from the economy and hurt local business bother them to no end. Measure T was not just an election reform issue.

Lack of appeal to the center is why the voter turn out in Humboldt, while better here than in most other parts of the state, was still disappointing.

As Mike Harvey said in an unrelated post before the election, "voters are not engaged as you think".

I think that is because centrist voters will vote if a broad array of issues that are important too them are addressed.

Richard Marks did as well as he did because he touched on two issues important to the center in Humboldt, living wages and too a lesser degree, light manufacturing.

Neely played to the safe left and Flemming played to the safe right, because they both knew they were going to get a second chance.

But if they knew there was not another election day in the cards for them, they would have played to center. Thats where IRV comes to play.

Then Humboldt County voters would have heard more about other big issues
not being addressed by the Board of Supervisors for "business as usual" reasons. Two huge ones that come too my mind our poverty and education.
Another recent one is police review, if you can accept that issue is no longer just a far right and far left issue.

IRV might have forced these issues to the table.

I know this, whomever, Neely or Flemming, come up with not a tax and spend policy but concrete solutions to slow the growing dissatifaction the center has with local poverty and education policies, and maybe police review as well- that politician will walk away with the November election.

IRV benefits not the left or right, but the emerging center in Humboldt County.

Aldo Bongio also called that IRV crew "educated idiots" at the forum I went to last year, that I can agree with, even if they are dead center on instant run-off voting.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

So,out of the feedback that we have been getting so far,most people think that the biggest advantage(at least locally) would be the elimination of the primary elections,as most folks will be tired of the banter between Flemming and Neely come November.And most seem to think that eliminating the extra election would save the county some much needed money.And most have agreed that it is a better way to truly express your opinions of each candidate,which in my opinion is IRV's best sell.Also, most seem to think that this way of voting will reduce the amount of negativity in campaigns because a candidate will always be looking to be the voters second choice,if not the first,people also seem to think that this effect will help reduce campaign spending.For the people who are agnostic, at least we showed them that a different way of voting exists,and learing something new is always a good thing.I hope everyone who stopped at our table got something out of it,as I truly beleive that this system is much better than the one that currently exists here.Check out for more info on IRV.

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

If it's a "left" issue,then why does the Utah republican party use it to elect representatives?Minneapolis will be voting to implent it for their elections this November.Those nutty Jesse'The Body' Ventura fans are taking over,watch out they'll bodyslam everyone who disagrees with them.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

I meant to write implement above.

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People from the left were afraid to vote for me in the real elections figuring it would be a vote for Nancy, but were willing to risk the vote in the IRV. Our election boat took too many holes to float at the end, HCDCC not endorsing a fellow Democrat and past HCDCC member, Democratic leaders endorsing incumbent even though I was a campaign volunteer for Thompson and contributer to Chesbro, Labor endorsing incumbent even though I am a successful union organizer (not many of them around) and 32 year union member, Blue Lake Rancheria donating $10,000 even though I assume I am the only one with Native American blood and actually use the Indian Clinic, and then the clincher, Democrats for Neely. I had no idea I could upset so many people. I thought I was an all right normal type working class. It's a miracle I pulled in 25%. With any of the aboves help, I would most likely be in the run off against Bonnie. Oh well. The low turnout may have hurt our campaign also. We targeted new voters (Registering and informing) and of course, Demos and Greens. To all who voted for me out there, thank you. I had honorable intentions if elected. We tried as hard as we could.

Fred: You didn't put up a Marks for Supervisor sign on the sly that I may have to pick up, did you?

Richard Marks

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local Solutions, the Salzman crowd, Chesbro, Berg and the Democratic Party Machine all failed to endorse Geist in the 5th Dist.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just make it a winner take all in the primary and avoid the runoff and this convoluted cockamamie scheme. Period.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geist ran against who?

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Richard writes: "You didn't put up a Marks for Supervisor sign on the sly that I may have to pick up, did you?".

No I didn't. Besides, I usually keep the old signs. They can be used later on for new signs if you paint over the old sign. Useful, for campaigns with little or no money.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Scott Menzies said...

One thing I like to point out to folks is that IRV is a traditional runoff system crammed onto one ballot. If you disagree with IRV, in many ways you disagree with the runoff system. Fair enough, but if you disagree with the runoff system, then you support candidates winning without a majority, which risks minority rule - which, to me, is worse than a tyranny of the majority.

What you have to realize is that IRV doesn't give disproportionate power to anyone. If candidates (and, of course, this is a big "if" which I won't argue) actually are who they say they are, and voters have values that align with those candidates, then third party votes that eventually go to one of the big parties are ensuring that that voter is seeing someone in office that, though perhaps not perfect, does actually reflect their values better than the other guy or gal. IRV is simply a better reflection of the will of the voting populace, with runoffs that allow for someone to be elected by majority and protect against minority rule. The initial tally of first rankings will, one can assume, accurately reflect the will of the voting populace. This is valuable information to all parties. It allows parties to make adjustments (hopefully more than superficial adjustments for marketing purposes) if they see that voters are shifting their attitudes toward third parties - or risk losing to that third party in the future. In that sense, it acts as a series of checks and balances, even if a third party is never able to get enough enthusiastic support to come out on top. Under our current system the chance of third parties getting that support is even smaller. In the end, IRV actually spreads out power by putting out the truth of the will of the voting populace, so such a system can only help, in my mind.

Not to mention it will save a lot of money on extra elections. I understand that a real runoff gives someone a "second chance", but why should folks be forced to spend money in taxes and time in following candidates a second time when they could get it all done at once? Democracy is tough enough as it is to be thoroughly informed on. Streamlining it could allow us to all spend our time learning more about more issues, rather than being redundant and poorly informed. IRV would help that, tremendously.

So basically you have to ask yourself a few questions:
Do you feel minority rule or a "tyranny" of the majority is worse?
Do you feel the citizenry should be given accurate information as to how its voting populace feels?
Is the money put out on extra elections worth the arguable benefit of a "second chance"?

If you feel minority rule is worse and want to see fewer elections giving an accurate reflection of the voting populace, then you would likely support IRV.

Bottom line: If we can't tap into the truth of how people feel, how can we elect officials that represent them?
Since IRV is the best way to tap into that information, its the best thing for democracy. America is about democracy, so it would be somewhat anti-American to not be constantly searching for ways to improve that democracy (like, for example, was done by giving women the right to vote). No, IRV isn't perfect, but neither is any other voting system (see Kenneth Arrow, 1954). It is, however, the best of them for various reasons from technical to practical. We need to stop sacrificing the 90% solution searching for a nonexistent 100% solution. I can't be more emphatic about that point, as this problem seems to plague many attempts at change I've seen. As well, the problem of disproportionate party power goes far beyond just the voting system, the fixing of which is only part of the solution - and a necessary step in the right direction.

So, anyway, these discussions are important, which is I'd love to see more Libertarians, and others of course, get involved with the HVA, and help us get this stuff through in a way that works for as many folks as possible.

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how in the world has our system of government managed to serve the people until scot menzies came around to tap into the truth of how people feel, so that he can make sure we elect officials that represent them, i mean us, or do i?

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

scott may as well scoop up the libertarians. fred isnt using them.

At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't USE libertarians. You USE democrats.

Libertarians are smarter than that.

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just make it winner take all, scott, then the majority rules, without all that ridiculous machination.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Scott Menzies said...

Anon 10:36, IRV, being a single-seat election system, is inherently winner-take-all. It ensures that a majority, by preference, is determining who that winner who takes all is. If you mean stick with plurality, which is the candidate with the most votes wins, then you are choosing to risk elections that are chosen by a minority. That's your choice. I don't like it, personally, but you're free to have your preference, of course.

Anon 5:54, so are you saying that the folks who worked to give women and blacks the vote were wrong? The government surely wasn't serving them at that time. So you assume that it must be perfect right now? And, if the election system you see is so perfect right now, then why do so many different municipalities do it differently? Some have run-offs, some have primaries, some have plurality, some have proportional representation, and some have IRV (which is nothing new to many). Perhaps spending some time doing some research could bring you to a place you could actually discuss these issues in a constructive manner, rather than just take potshots when you see a couple words you don't like, without reading the whole sentence or absorbing the whole argument. If you read this blog, I imagine you're interested in improving things in one way or another and, conversely, dissatisfied with things in one way or another. Well, so am I. I just want to engage in some intelligent discussion to improve one aspect of our lives as Americans, the same way women and blacks did decades ago. If you want to discuss, then educate yourself on the issue and discuss. That's what democracy is about: educating yourself on issues and debating them intelligently. If you don't like democracy, then don't participate.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How in the world does the majority vote become choosing by the minroty, scott, are you nuts? well never mind.... answered my own question.
Keep talking. I'm with 5:54


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