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A Chance to Support IRV

As you may know, the bill to allow cities and counties in Oregon to use Instant Runoff Voting, or preference voting, has been assigned to the House Elections and Rules Committee.  Following the "talking points" is contact information for committee members.  It's critical that we contact ALL the committee members as soon as possible to request a hearing for HB 2638.
Message from Blair Bobier of FairVoteOregon (via  FairVoteOR@yahoogroups.com) --

"Democracy is About Choices -- Support HB 2638"
HB 2638 gives cities and counties in Oregon a choice:  whether or not to use Instant Runoff Voting for their local elections.  Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a better way to vote.  Also known as preference voting or ranked choice voting, IRV ensures that the winner of an election is supported by the majority of voters.  Under current Oregon law, a candidate can win an election without the support of a majority of voters.  With IRV, candidates would no longer be able to win with less than a majority vote.  IRV protects the interests of the majority of Oregonians.  HB 2638 gives cities and counties more choices for how to run their elections.  HB 2638 gives voters more choices, too.
Other benefits of IRV:
* IRV encourages positive, issue-oriented campaigning
* IRV eliminates the "spoiler" dynamic in elections
* IRV gives voters more meaningful choices
* IRV means that no one who votes for a third party will cast a "wasted vote"
Questions and Answers about using IRV in Oregon
Would HB 2638 require the use of IRV in Oregon?
No.  HB 2638 would simply allow cities and counties to use IRV.  This bill doesn't require anything; it is known as enabling legislation.  Separate legislation would be required to implement IRV.  Having this legislation on the books simply gives cities and counties the option to use IRV.
What would the cost be?
There would be no cost.  This bill would simply allow the use of IRV.
Is IRV constitutional?
Yes.  In fact, Oregon is the only state which has a preference voting provision in its Constitution (Article II, Section 16).
Is IRV used anywhere?
Yes, in lots of places:  San Francisco uses IRV and Cambridge, Massachusetts uses a variation of it.  IRV is used to elect the Mayor of London, Ireland's president and many officeholders in Australia.  IRV is used by the Utah Republican party and by the American Political Science Association.  The Eugene Charter Review Committee recommended IRV for city elections in 2001.
How does IRV work?
Instead of just voting for one candidate, voters rank candidates in order of preference: 1, 2, 3 and so on. It takes a majority to win. If anyone receives a majority of first choice votes, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, taking into consideration the second choice votes on the ballots for the defeated candidate. The process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote. With modern voting equipment, all of the counting and recounting takes place quickly and automatically.
How can I help support HB 2638?
Write and call the committe members below and request a hearing for HB 2638.  You can also write and call your own state representative and senator and ask them to co-sponsor and support HB 2638.  You can reach them by calling the Oregon Capitol, toll-free at 800-332-2313.  If you belong to an organization, have your group endorse this bill.  Write letters to the editor supporting HB 2638 and election reform; use this fact sheet for "talking points" but write the letter in your own words.
Where can I learn more about IRV?
Fair Vote:  The Center for Voting & Democracy is the nation's leading voting rights organization focusing on more fair and democratic election methods.  Their website, www.fairvote.org, is the best place to learn more about IRV and to find other resources, such as books and articles, about different election methods.
Oregon House Elections and Rules Committee Members
Representative Derrick Kitts, Chair
Party: R  District: 30
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1430
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-292, Salem, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.derrickkitts@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/kitts
Representative Kim Thatcher, Vice Chair  
Party: R  District: 25
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1425
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, H-490, Salem,, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.kimthatcher@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/thatcher
Representative Billy  Dalto   
Party: R  District: 21
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1421
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-291, Salem, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.billydalto@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/dalto
Representative Debi Farr  
Party: R  District: 14
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1414
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, H-278, Salem,, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.debifarr@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/farrd
Representative Paul Holvey, Vice Chair
Party: D  District: 8
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1408
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE H-475, Salem, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.paulholvey@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/holvey
Representative Mitch Greenlick
Party: D  District: 33
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1433
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-493, Salem, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.mitchgreenlick@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/greenlick
Representative Steve March
Party: D  District: 46
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1446
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-385, Salem, OR, 97301
Email:  rep.stevemarch@state.or.us
Website:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/march

IRV is broken 08.Mar.2005 21:34

Marquis de Condorcet

IRV does not always select the candidate which is ranked more highly than all other candidates in one-to-one elections, the condorcet winner.


That comment was unuseful 09.Mar.2005 09:22

Mike stepbystpefarm <a> mtdata.com

What the previous person pointed out is correct. However THAT defect of IRV is easily corrected by a fairly minor modification (see note #1). By presenting the objection without explaining that there was a known solution for the problem is doing a disservice to election reform.

But if making the effort to fix our system of elections we SHOULD take the time to closely examine the properties of IRV. It is sad fact that ALL possible schemes will produce bad results under certain circumstances and IRV is no exception. We need to look at not only which of our current problems IRV fixes but what are the circumstnces where it breaks things worse than what we have now. And we need to steer clear of false claims. IRV does NOT mean the winner has "a majority" except in a techical sense. If in filling out an IRV ballot I rank Mussolini above Hitler that does NOT mean (should Mussolini be the winner) that I voted FOR him.

Now don't mistake what I am doing here. I am NOT arguing against IRV and in fact think it would be a worthwhile imporvement. But let's not do this with our eyes closed to the problems which IRV can introduce while solving others. We need to consider carefully our current problems with what future problems we MAY need to face. Let's start with the most obvious, the usual biggest claim for IRV.

IRV eliminates having to cast a "lesser of evils" ballot.

No, it doesn't eliminate the problem, it shifts the situation where the problem arises. Right now we find ourselves having to cast "lesser of evils" ballots when the candidate we would really like to win has no chance in the election. IRV removes this problem. But it causes the same problem to possibly reappear in a very different situation where our candidate has a good chance of winning, better than last time around, but the sitauation is scuh that if he or she falls short, the winner will be somebody we really don't want to win.

IRV can cause election results to move in the opposite direction of the overall shift in political opinion of the elctorate. Maybe the situation would never arise in practice, but if it did, the result would almost surely lead to severe social disruption if not civil war. Since you are unlikely to believe my statement that it could happen without a concrete example, see note #2. There is no certain fix for THIS problem in all situations (just hope it never happens). It is when the society is close to this condition that the "lesser of evils" choice rears its ugly head again.

note #1:
A "condorcet candidate" is one who would beat any other if the election were just between these two. Because IRV eliminates candidates in order (as opposed to all at once) the result can be to eliminate a possible "condorcet winner" in an early round even though this is the ideal winner. When you are looking at the virtues of IRV you are imagining a political distribution where the big parties are in the middle and the minor parties outside. But you can also have a situation where the big parties are outside and in the middle are the only reasonable compromise candidates << and election winners come from one extreme or the other, rapid extreme jumps back and forth >>

THIS defect of IRV is easliy fixed by a modest modification involving no change in how ballots are filled out, just in the vote counting procedure. The idea is that BEFORE conducting an IRV style count, the ballots are used to see if there is a "condorcet candidate" (by the way defined, can be only one). In other words, the ballots are used to evaluate who beats whom considering all the possible 1:1 matchups and if one candidate beats everybody else on this basis, declare him or her the winner. No condorcet winner? Then proceed with an IRV count elimianting the low candidates one at a time.

note #2:
Assume that at election 1 we have three parties contending, the fascists at 45%, the democratic centrists at 29%, and the socialists at 26% We will also be making the reasonable assumption that next choice votes will go to the closest alternative, split between them evenly if the party being elimianted is in the middle. So when we do the IRV count, the socialists are elimianted and their 2nd choice goes to the democratic centrists who win the election.

Now it's few years down the road, time for election 2, and the mood in the country has been shifting leftward. We conduct a pre election poll, and the preferences we find are the fascists having dropped to just 36%, the democratic centrists have risen to 30%, and the socialists all the way up to 34%

a) If the poll is accurate and people vote their honest preferences, under IRV the FASCISTS win the election in spite of the fact there was this overall leftward shift in mood (remember, we were assuming that the forced 2nd choice of a middle party being eliminated would split evenly so the fascists get 15% from that for a total of 51% compared to 49% for the socialists.)

b) A socialist going into the voting booth faces an awful "lesser of evils" dilemma. If the socialist candidate manages to squeak out a few more votes, might win the election, but if falls sort, might result in a fascist win. The SAFE course is to cast a false 1st choice vote for the democratic centrists as a lesser evil.

c)While not a guarantee in more complex situations where there is no "condorcet winner" in this scenario with just three parties in serious contention it is very likely the the modification of IRV that checks for a "condorcet winner" first would prevent the disaster (the democratic centrist candidate will probably beat the fascist candidate 64-36 and the socialist candidate 66-34).

Careful research and thinking 09.Mar.2005 19:09

Evergreen 2

Thanks for the careful reseach and thinking. While I understand your statement that "IRV does NOT mean the winner has "a majority" except in a techical sense," I like IRV because it at least tries (very hard and probably usually with considerable success) to seek out a majority. There are many technical questions that can be raised about IRV, but it has to be an improvement over what we have now which is most people not even voting and, even among those who vote, the winner almost never has an actual majority.

It's true that the spoiler dilemma could appear in an IRV world, but such a world would still put alternative ideas forward and advance the growth of "third" parties. For example, if we could achieve public campaign financing, IRV would be absolutely necessary in order to distribute the funds among the parties in accordance with a real picture of how the public is dividing. So, the point is that we need to try IRV and not fear that what happens in our world of "horse-race" elections might reappear in a probably very different world of IRV politics.

I think a majority of the American people would like to see more political parties than we have now, which is just two. IRV is the way to advance that.