Distributed Mind

November 22, 2006

Instant Runoff Voting and Electoral Reform

by ben

Yes, I know I still haven't written anything more about platform issues. We're in no hurry, herem though. And, I have to admit I have been sidetracked a little since I started thinking about electoral reform, and, more specifically, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) as my mentioned in the last entry.

Some quick research seems to suggest that there are no organizations pushing IRV specifically in Indiana (and it doesn't look like Illinois either for you Illinoisans). Well, of course, we have the Green Party, at the least, but they have a much broader platform, of course. And they don't really have a lot of traction in Indiana, sadly. Anyway, if I'm mistaken and anyone knows of anyone in Indiana (or any other states relevant to this limited, I mean, exclusive, readership) pushing this, please let me know. If it's true that there aren't any, I suppose that means I better be thinking about ways to fix that.

I think you all get the idea that I think this is important. The main reason why is that I can't imagine there being any long term hope of getting elected lawmakers who care about the issues I care about. It might happen every once in a while, but not often enough to make a difference. So, everything else I want to write about here is most like one giant waste of time without a change in the system. But even beyond that there's a fundamental principle of democracy at stake here. Democracy isn't democracy if people don't have a choice, and too many of us right now are voting for people we don't agree with much or even most of the time, or for candidates that have no chance of getting elected not because they don't represent voters but because they don't have the right party label. If you've ever felt like you didn't have a real choice in an election, then alternative voting systems are something you should be interested in. If you've ever voted for a candidate you didn't like instead of one you did because you thought it was more important to make sure a third candidate wasn't elected, this is something you should be interested in. If you think voting turnout is too low, alternative voting systems are something you should be interested in. (Am I being too hyperbolic? Maybe. But probably not.)

So, anyway, if I've convinced you, spread the word. If you want to step it up even more than that, be thinking about ways to make this happen in your state of residence. And if you live in Indiana, let's coordinate.

Okay, break!

[And on a related issue, the blog "Fort Wayne Observed" raises the issue of ballot access.]

[After spedning (too much) additional time looking to see what was out there, I found still nothing for Indiana - so if you know anyone who's currently doing this let me know! - but I did find that Illinois progressive activist (I guess you would call him) Dan Johnson-Weinberger is more than a little interested in IRV as is the Midwest Democracy Center, local chapter of the Center for Voting & Democracy (which is what prompted my meory and how we got started on this whole thing, as you'll recall), though their web page doesn't seem to be too actively updated and I wonder how active they are these days.]

[And, in case you're wondering who doesn't like IRV, I found an example of people saying it's too complicated and thus will make voting harder for minorities, etc. thus actually effectively disenfranchising voters. It's a legitimate concern though I'm inclined to say the cost is worth it, but it bears thinking about and discussing, I suppose. This stuff has been studied, so time to start doing some research... Of course, IRV and other such systems are used internationally, and also in certain places in the United States, so it's certainly doable. Minneapolis just approved IRV for certain city elections, that is set to start in 2009 according to the Star Tribune. That article also quotes the president of the Minnesota Voters Alliance who seems convinced that this is a bad idea and vows to oppose it in court. The article doesn't say why he doesn't like it and looking up the Minnesota Voters Alliance didn't really give me any more informtation, so... Council President Barbara Johnson opposes IRV becasue of added cost for implementing it.]

[Update, 8:37: On the topic of IRV making voting for minorities harder... A Pew survey showed that in 2006 while a majority of registered voters were satisfied with their available choices for their candidates for Representative, a significant minority of 43% was dissatisfied (which has been decreasing apparently, and in fact in 1990 the majority were dissatisfied - not the direction I would have expected). But the real kicker is that a larger percentage of blacks (they don't say how much, I'll try to find out later) were dissatisfied. (Also, oddly enough, those surveyed were less likely to be happy with their choices if their districts were considered to have "competetive" races, where apparently competetive was deefined by Pew.) On the other hand, a San Francisco State University study indicated that in terms of actual elections (based on one election in San Francisco, so not necessarily universally), minority voters were more likely to encounter problems. On a different angle, a League of Women Voters survey that alientation is not a factor in non-voting - though they do have a rather narrow definition of alienation, perhaps.]

[Update, 9:17 (last one, really!): I found the Minnesota Voters Alliance argument against IRV. I am sure one can formulate very convincing arguments against IRV, but that just isn't one...]

01:13:43 - Politics - ben - No comments

November 17, 2006

The Issues, Part 1

by ben

Well, no one has contributed anything on issues yet, so it looks like I will have to do my own work! Of course, I had already planned on writing some things up, but life has a tendency to get in the way. But, I'm taking a few minutes here to hopefully get the ball rolling farther, on my part at least.

First thing is a good example of the kind of thing I was looking for that I saw earlier this week. It's even on an issue I've thought about before, but was not high on my list of things to write about. But now someone has done the work for me... Anyway, the issue is food. That might not seem like a huge thing to worry about but it certainly has the potential to have some big impacts - some of which you can think of yourself probably, but Dustin Kidd suggests some too - and it certainly represents an issue that isn't being thought about at the policy level (and there is some room for improvement on that front, even, I think, for people who are generally opposed to gvernment involvement). So, go read Kidd's post on the topic.

The second is electoral reform, which I was reminded of this week when someone linked to Fair Vote. I've ranted about this in the past, and I don't want to spend all night writing about it, so I'll be brief (thus violating my own rules of carefully laying out the problem...). Basically, it's easy to see that getting people elected who we actually want elected is hard. I haven't seen any surveys, but anecdotally that seems to be true. There are all kinds of things that could be done to fix that. The most useful would probably be to implement alternatve voting systems, of which Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a good one that currently has momentum. (You'll occasionally here debate on which alternative voting system is best, and frankly I haven't done enough research to be able to back any particular system over another. One thing everyone agrees on though is that all of the main alternative voting systems are better than the present one, which system is chosen is less important than choosing one. If it proves problematic, it could always be replaced later anyway.) In terms of making it easier for third party or independent candidates to get elected, there are lots of other reforms that could be useful, but most of those don't have to do with voting so I won't adress them now, but of course they are also things that should be considered. Fair Vote is an example of an organization promoting IRV (and similar systems) among other electoral reforms, and IRV and similar systems are part of the Green Party platform and is backed my most other smaller parties as well. I've never heard any one present an argument for why any of these systems are a bad thing (though I could imagine some entrenched partisans might present such arguments...) so this issue seems non-controversial; it just needs some more momentum.

Another major electoral issue that was talked about a lot six years ago but has been sadly mostly ignore since is switching to a popular vote for the presidential elections. National Popular Vote is a campaign to get a popular vote to replace the old electoral system, and it has had a fair amount of fanfare. I haven't followed it closely, I'll admit, but it sounds like it could have chance of being implemented.

18:54:32 - Politics - ben - No comments

November 09, 2006

Distributed Mind: The Interactive Edition

by ben

I have been ranting, as many of you will know all to well, about the need for alternatives to the current two party hegemony. Frankly, whether that means the introduction of other parties or a mass rise in independent candidates, I really don't care. What I want are options that will represent my values and be more interested in the issues than party politics. As yet another election has passed, with many voters complaining about their lack of options, and as we again have (a very short) two years until the next election, it seems a great time to think about making such alternatives available to voters - us - in the next and future elections.

Now, I wanted to write a series of posts about the issues (and the perspectives on those issues that would be most helpful) that I think matter. In fact I probably still will. But I also know that (1) that's a lot of work, more than I can probably take on myself and still do well, at least in the near future, and (2) it doesn't get anyone else involved. So... here's the plan: Write a post about an issue that you think you aren't being represented on well right now and suggest a third way (or fourth or whatever) of approaching it and then either post the link in a comment here or send me a link and I'll post it here. And, of course, write about as many issues as you want.

Now, I know that we probably won't all agree exactly on everything, but we'll all probably agree with each other more than we do with the current Republican or Democratic parties, and certainly discussing the issues can't hurt, as long as we're all civil about it.

So let's get started!

(And hopefully this doesn't become yet another reader-interaction post where no one comments...)

00:13:58 - Politics - ben - No comments