Monday, November 18, 2013

Texas Democratic state rep candidate Byran Boyko is big fan of PR / and gets into why he backs RCV as part of the case for RCV

Great as the "enemy" of good?

I wanted to address something quickly to Clay Shentrup and William Waugh on Twitter, specifically, who said that "FairVote errs in failing to promote Approval Voting for U.S. Presidency, U.S. Senate, and State Governorships"

I said (being limited to 140 characters and all) that all systems have pros and cons.

Clay Shentrup then posted that "I'd be curious to hear what you think the cons are." and linked me to this page: - a link at "The Center for Range Voting."

Clay, William: You're not wrong.

Approval voting, Range voting, and other voting systems produce better, more accurate results.  I would have no problem if we voted using Range or Approval voting for elections where there can only be one winner – executive elections, like the Governorship or the Presidency.

But none of the voting methods analyzed on the site have any sort ofproportional representation component.

This is the key.

We have to go back and look at why electoral reform is necessary.  To tell the truth, range and approval voting systems are mathematically superior to other systems.  And you're right – range voting is the best of all single-winner election methods.

But the problem is that range voting only produces a single winner. No matter who wins in Range Voting, there's going to be a significant number of people who feel they aren't represented at all.

You suggest that range voting would end two-party domination, but let's be honest, the vast majority of people in America are either center-left or center-right.  In order for a third-party to be elected in any sort of single-winner system, they'd at least need to be approved by 51% of the population (even if they were not approved as a first choice.)  That's just not going to happen, in just about any district in America.

Range voting does allow you to vote for a Libertarian or Green candidate, give them your full support, without hurting your "second choice."  It eliminates the spoiler effect.  But it still doesn't make third parties viable.  Third parties will still be unrepresented or at best, underrepresented in legislative elections. Indeed, I doubt that the actual results of any range-voting election would be any different from the results you would have gotten under plurality.

Quite simply, proportional representation systems address several things that range voting doesn't.

  • Proportional representation systems allow for significant ideological minorities – Libertarians, Greens, etc. to be represented in proportion to their actual support among the populace.  
  • Proportional representation systems provide viable alternatives to the two major parties which allows voters to better hold politicians accountable.
  • Proportional representation systems tend to produce better representation of socioeconomic minorities and women. (We can see this in Australia, which uses single-winner for the House, and proportional representation for the Senate. The Australian House is 25% women, the Australian Senate is 40% women, and yet, these are the same voters.)
  • Proportional representation systems eliminate (or at least, greatly diminish) the impact of gerrymandering.  Voters get to choose their representatives – not the other way around, which is what we have now.

At the core of everything I'm working for, the main thing I am trying to do is to empower voters.Quite frankly, I think proportional representation systems do the most to empower voters, compared to any single-winner system.

But you're arguing that FairVote, by throwing it's support to IRV instead of Range Voting, is not endorsing the best system for single-winner elections that must be single-winner by definition – Presidency and Gubernatorial elections.

I think FairVote is actually being extremely clever to support IRV instead of Range Voting, and here's my reasoning:

Changing electoral systems is possible, but difficult.  Only one country in the world has ever changed electoral systems without significant upheaval (war or crisis) prompting the change.  That country is New Zealand.  They moved from plurality to MMP.

So, if we do manage to change the electoral system, we might get one shot to do so within our lifetimes.

FairVote is pushing for Single Transferable Vote in the United States for legislative elections.  It's the system I support, and the one I think has the best shot of America adopting. It provides proportional results without using party lists. People still vote for a name.  Voting is simple (you rank candidates first, second, third, and so on) and easily understood.

What's interesting, however, is that a Single Transferable Vote ballot looks more or less identical to an Instant Runoff Voting ballot to the voter.  Both rank candidates in order of preference.  Both are "choice voting" systems.

IRV may not be the best system for single-winner executive elections, but in all likelihood, STV is the best system for legislative elections. Because of the ballot similarity, pushing for STV and IRV at the same time is a much more achievable option.

All systems have pros and cons, as I said.  The cons for range voting, for me, is that it won't produce proportional results in our legislature, something we desperately need.  And we're likely only going to have one shot at electoral reform.

Now, if we already had some form of proportional representation for our legislature, then I'd say the move to range voting would be a priority for our executive, single-winner, elections.  But we don't.  And that's the bigger problem.

Instant Runoff Voting isn't perfect.  But it's good enough for the single-winner election systems.  And in this case, knocking FairVote for supporting IRV instead of range voting is a case of "great being the enemy of good."  The problem is, compared to any proportional representation system, range voting doesn't even rank.  FairVote is supporting IRV because it is seen as a compliment to STV – to proportional representation. 

To me, that just makes sense..