Yesterday Santa Fe (New Mexico) held its first ranked-choice election for mayor. Out of five candidates, Alan Webber won on the fourth round.
In ranked-choice voting, you rank your choices, in this case from #1 to #5.
I liked the effect this had on a number of things about the campaign.
- I put more thought into all of the candidates, rather than just choosing one and ignoring the others.
- Campaigners said “If you don’t want to vote for our candidate first, please consider voting for them second.” This is both a good tactic and a more civil conversation.
- Reporters complained that it took more time to get results. But it seemed to me that the message was that every vote counts, when the counting had to go to a fourth round.
- The winner has a clear majority, not the 39% that the first round gave Webber.
- We don’t have the additional time and expense of a runoff election.
The city and the Santa Fe New Mexican did a great job of educating voters, starting a month or more before the election.
I like it.
Cambridge MA has used that system for decades for city elections.
I, too, believe it has merits, for the reasons you cite!
Can you give us a lowdown on the winners?
Sounds like a great solution to me.
@NobodySpecial: There’s more at the link in the top post.
Cincinnati once used a similar system called proportional representation to elect its completely at-large city council.
Since abandoning that system, the city has consistently enacted changes to make things worse, including term limits.
I seem to remember that one of the right-wing talking points against Clinton’s nominee for (I think it was) Attorney General, Lani Guinier, was that she dared to consider such variations on elections like ranked voting and proportional representation. Total heresy to admit our current voting systems might not be the most democratic way.
West of the Cascades
As I understand it, this is the system that Australia uses for all its elections.
Yes, but clearly this complicates horse race reporting so it cannot be good for our civic process
A slight correction: per Wikipedia, Bill nominated Lani Guinier not for AG, but for the head of DoJ’s Civil Rights Division.
@Ohio Mom: It got smeared as a system that somehow gave extra votes to black people (because she argued it would provide better representation for non-geographic interest groups like minorities).
Were candidates identified by party affiliation (whether endorsed or not) on the ballot?
@Ohio Mom: You’re s Lani Guinier for Attorney General.
Repubs wouldn’t understand that every topic that is discussed in a scholarly article isn’t one that the writer will “shove down our throats” (without an explanation of how the Attorney General would do that).
Major Major Major Major
My favorite alternative voting system is approval voting. Just check the name of every candidate you find acceptable. It doesn’t require nearly as much voter education.
People who rail against the two-party system should be all over this stuff: by mitigating the spoiler effect it makes it more feasible for small parties to run candidates. And if third-party candidates don’t have perverse effects, that probably increases the quality of the candidates they can get to run as well, since denying or not caring about the spoiler effect is no longer a requirement.
These systems don’t completely eliminate incentives for strategic voting, depending on how they’re run (there are actual no-go theorems about the absence of a perfect voting system). But they can be much better than what we’ve usually got.
@Major Major Major Major: I like approval voting for the same reason. Some good stuff on that, IRV, etc. here: http://electology.org/
@Cheryl Rofer: The article doesn’t give enough information to make me think that a guy from Harvard’s B School is all that ‘progressive’. Especially not when he raised that much money and the article doesn’t identify who his big pockets donors are. That’s why I was hoping for some more detail from an actual voter.
@West of the Cascades:
Yes it does, but I’m confused as to why you would need four rounds of voting. The point of the system is to get all the voting out of the way in one round.
edit: Sorry, it was four rounds of counting, not voting. That makes sense.
If a good candidate doesn’t win after the 10th ballot, can the Veteran’s Committee put them in?
@Viva BrisVegas: I thought it was four rounds of counting, not four rounds of voting.
@El Caganer: @Major Major Major Major: I want to do approval voting for internal elections at my job, but every time I bring it up I get resistance. My colleagues call everything unfamiliar “too complicated.” :/
@NobodySpecial: These days progressive seems to be a code for a Berner.
@FlipYrWhig: There is no system which people cannot game. Be careful what you wish for.
If you want some prime examples of incivility and political bastardry, just lookup “preference deals” and “how to vote cards” in Australian elections.
@Viva BrisVegas: As I said…
An important point to remember.
@NobodySpecial: Kate Noble was my first choice. I am a bit suspicious of Webber’s connections – Silicon Valley is not a positive for me – but he’s got some managerial competency.
As to “progressive” – I’m not sure what you mean by that, and the specifics have become important. I think Webber’s policy choices will be reasonable. He’s not going to turn around any of the things Santa Feans think are important, like being a sanctuary city. We’re in the throes of a reorganization to a more powerful mayor, so it’s hard to figure what decisions in that realm will be preferable, and general management skills seem more important. I suspect that is the single factor that led to his victory.
Major Major Major Major
@different-church-lady: it’s what makes us higher mammals!
ETA I know other kinds of animals do it too shush it’s early
One thing the two major entrenched parties, D and R alike, will cooperatively agree on is to kill any possibilities of ranked-choice voting, precisely because it makes voting for third-party candidates far more attractive to far more voters, and with it vastly increased chances for the emergence of potent rival third-parties.
It’s called “alternative vote” on this side of the Atlantic, although I like the name “ranked choice voting” better as it sounds less technical. I ran student union elections with it back in my university days in the late 1990s and it was pretty straightforward — even students could understand it!
IIRC the Irish Republic have used it from the start. In the UK it actually passed the Commons in 1929 but got killed by the Lords, and then presumably forgotten about in the crisis caused by the fallout from the Wall Street Crash. We had a referendum on whether to introduce it in 2011 — a condition of the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition with the Tories — but naturally the latter then campaigned against it (same bullshit arguments of “too complicated!” and “not traditional!”) and the vote and the opportunity was lost.
It’s not a perfect system — quite apart from the mathematical edge cases, it’s a system for electing individuals not parties, so will give only approximate nationwide proportionality. But it’s an improvement that doesn’t tend to lock elections into a two-party system.
O. Felix Culpa
Not an actual voter because I live outside city limits, but an actual volunteer campaign worker here – Webber is an excellent choice for mayor. I got to observe him closely over the course of the campaign and he is a good man who is capable and liberal in his values, the best in the field of choices (pace Cheryl). Since when did the ability to raise money become a disqualifier in and of itself? As for the label progressive – others have already addressed its *value*.
@cmorenc: It hasn’t worked out that way in Australia. We have just as entrenched a two party system as anybody else.
@Viva BrisVegas: Same thing in India too, there are elebenty small parties, some of them are strong in certain regions but there are always two main groups competing for power, for the first 60 years of independent India it was Congress vs All other parties now its BJP vs all other parties. So there is nothing inherently wonderful about having multiple parties. Also, see Israel.
It kinda looks as though Webber and Trujillo would have been the candidates in a run-off election in a conventional voting system. I guess this is an interesting experiment, and maybe saved a little money, but otherwise I’m not sure it’s a big deal.
But here’s the thing. I’m not interested in small parties. I’m just interested in my party and my candidate. Here in California, we’ve tried term limits and open primaries to try to get alternative candidates on the balot.
We might as well try this, too. But I think I would also like to be able to cast a negative “no way in hell” vote for candidates I despise.
@O. Felix Culpa:
In the age of Citizens United, I simply don’t trust anonymous donors with big money. Period. A chunk of that money could have come from the likes of Silicon Vally libertaribros, and that influences my thoughts on what that candidate might be standing for.
@Amir Khalid: Thanks. I suspected I was not quite on the mark.
O. Felix Culpa
In this case, it didn’t. I agree with knowing what a candidate stands for. That’s why getting involved in local politics is so valuable – you get to actually know the candidates, their character, and their values.
ETA: Robert Reich was one of Alan’s endorsers. Not a libertaribro by any stretch of the imagination.
I’m a (potential) fan of any change that makes more than two parties a potentially (more) stable option. Since Viva BrisVegas suggested looking at the Australia example (thanks!):
Ranked Choice Voting and Australia’s Upcoming Elections: A Primer
In the US, the two parties don’t have to worry about this, and focus on other things (including encouraging opponent-spoilers).
Listening to Sessions talk now. What an odious POS.
I don’t like the progressive label. I look for liberal values. Progressive is what liberals were calling themselves after the Reagan era shellackings. Which to me is defeatism. Later it’s meaning seemed to shift possibly more than once and I have no idea what people thinks it means now. I have always considered myself liberal.
@FlipYrWhig: That’s a damn shame, since approval voting is about the easiest alternative to first-past-the-post that I can think of. I’d like ranked voting as well except that it demands a lot more interest in candidates/positions/parties than a lot of people either don’t have or don’t have the time to cultivate. Would love to see it catch on in PA (where I used to live) and FL (where I live now).
Ranked choice voting is simply to make elections held cheaper for the locality not for the actual people running. My own preference is to have an election and if no one wins more than 50% of the vote then the top two face off on a new election even though that costs more.
Yes. That is exactly what happened, and she had to withdraw from consideration for AG. She was brilliant and black, so the right wing Wurlitzer spun up to eleventy million. I was outraged about it at the time.
O. Felix Culpa
@kindness: In this case, Santa Fe voters chose the ranked choice option in an election (about 10 years ago, IIRC). The city didn’t want to implement it this year and was forced to by a court case. My read is that voters thought it was a more fair approach, although it’s clear from questions and comments before yesterday’s election that many didn’t fully understand how the ranked choice process actually works. The city and other civic groups made a concerted effort to explain the new system to voters for this election.
Boo-frickin hoo. The purpose of our electoral system isn’t to make reporters happy. Nobody looking at surgery says “Sure, this procedure has better outcomes, but it just takes too gosh-darn long. Do it quick and sloppy.” Elections are important, and should be treated that way. Yes, I also want a damn pony.
Villago Delenda Est
“Reporters complained it took more time to get results”
“In November 2016, 52 percent of voters approved a ballot initiative that would make Maine the first state in the nation to implement ranked-choice voting. But lawmakers passed a bill last year delaying the effective date until December 2021 and then repealing the ranked-choice voting process altogether if a constitutional amendment hasn’t been passed by then to address legal concerns [they said the state constitution has to be amended].”
We get to vote on it again in June, and I’ll be voting for it again. And again and again if I have to.
@Major Major Major Major:
I’m also a fan of approval voting- I think it hits the sweet spot of being much better than first past the post while remaining simple to explain and implement- but I think it and most other alternative voting systems miss an important, bigger point. Cheryl talks about putting more thought into the candidates, and it’s hard to argue that having voters spend more time considering candidates is a good thing.
The problem is that our system already requires a lot from voters. People who hang out on politics blogs, and especially the kind of people who want to spend time talking about electoral system reform, tend not to see this because politics interests us and we’re happy to spend the effort. But one of the problems with our current system is we have a lot of ill-informed voters because keeping up with politics requires a lot of attention. Switching to a voting system that requires voters to put even more effort into keeping up with things risks driving people away because of the extra effort involved, even if they say they’ll be more interested because of the wider ideological range of available candidates.
I remember seeing an interesting blog discussing the problem of breadth vs. depth in political systems. The basic thrust of the argument is that not everyone has an equal amount of time to spend on politics. If you ask less of voters, you can get higher participation but at the cost of turning more power over to the politicians they elect. If you ask more of voters, you give them more power but at the cost of alienating people who don’t have the time to devote to politics.
Americans have a tendency to ask more of voters, rather than less. Instead of occasional elections where you vote for one or two representatives, we have frequent elections where we choose everyone from the President down to the dog catcher and then have all kinds of specific questions about things like bond issues and referenda. I think that’s a huge reason the US has relatively low voter participation rates. We’ve chosen to ask a lot of voters, with the result that many people tune the whole thing out and don’t participate.
If we want to switch to a more complex voting system, something will have to give. We should seriously consider reducing the number of elected officials. There are some obvious places to start, especially at the local level. Cities should elect their councils in a way that gives each voter just one election to think about, either with individual districts or at large voting with proportional representation. We should do away with elected judges and many of the other offices that are more professional than political, like county sheriffs, coroners, and assessors. At the state level, we could allow the governor to appoint the Attorney General, Treasurer, etc. the same way the President appoints a cabinet. Reducing the number of elected offices would let voters devote more attention to the ones that are left.
Yes, but you’re an intelligent, thoughtful voter. That means you have little in common with the average American voter. (“Little” may be overstating the similarities.)