Monday, January 16, 2006

Lewis public comment on Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting

This is the commentary Erne Lewis plans on making at the January 17 meeting of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission.

Most eligible voters do not vote in most elections.

Of those who do vote, most are dissatisfied with the candidate they felt obligated to vote for. They usually explain that they voted for the lesser of two evils.

But one factor strongly producing a low voter turnout is the perception that if they vote for the person they really want, their vote ‘won’t count.’ It’s a phrase we have all heard more than we can count. They believe they have to vote for someone who stands a really good chance of winning or not vote at all. They frequently chose not to vote.

And that turns the political process over to the organizers; to the lobbyists, to the political aristocrats the long-term incumbents who control the who, what, where and when of government.

That process has so disgusted so many citizens and former voters that it is difficult to believe that politicians and bureaucrats could sink below the dismal low esteem in which the public now holds them. But they will and we will all suffer if we fail to find a better system for discovering our leaders than the corruption-prone two party system we now have.

We need a system that brings those individuals into the political system who now believe they are practically excluded—by money, power politics, or whatever. And if potential voters have the opportunity to rank their choices they will be a great deal more interested in the voting process.

That is basically the principal involved in Ranked Choice Voting. It goes by many names and has a history dating back to about 1850. It’s been used successfully in other states and countries. I would like to see Pierce County lead the counties of Washington State in demonstrating the system here.

Here is how it would be explained to the voter:

In the Ranked Choice Voting System each voter, without regard to who might win, ranks in preference from among all the candidates their first choice, then the candidate who would be a second choice, and then third choice, and so on. The voter may also include that politically strong candidate that he or she doesn’t want, but would prefer over that other creep who might actually win if we don’t help defeat him.

When the votes are counted—assuming there were several candidates—if someone doesn’t win more than 50% of the first choice votes then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and the votes are counted again.

If there isn’t a winner the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the process is repeated until only a few candidates—maybe only 2 or 3 or 4— remain, and someone has more than 50% of the total votes counted.
The winner will be first choice for many and second choice for others and perhaps third or fourth or even fifth choice for a lot of voters. But that winner will be someone who can truly say he has the most support and the most genuine support of all the candidates who ran.

The beauty of the system is that it allows people to vote for the person they really want as their first choice without fear that their vote will cause their worst choice to win. More important, they may truly expect that sometimes their underdog candidate—the person lots of people hoped could win, and wanted to win but couldn’t vote for because he or she just didn’t stand a chance—will win.

It’s a system that tears away the power politics and lets voters select the candidates that they really want.

It could even be used to replace the primary. We could go directly to the general elections without the cost and bother of the primary. Now just think of that! If the political parties wanted to endorse one or more candidates, that very substantial cost would not be borne by the taxpayers.


At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the well done article for IRV. Your reasoning should convince anyone on the fense with proportional representation. I support it, and hope the commissioners will too!


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