Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Ability To Express Preferences Among The Candidates

Perhaps the most important aspect of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the ability of the voter to vote for the candidate he or she truly likes, without any fear of "wasting" his or her vote. This is because each voter is allowed to rank the order in which they like the candidates, and each person's vote goes to the highest of their choices who it can help elect. Furthermore, a voter cannot hurt the chances of any candidate he or she prefers by marking lower choices for others.

There are two ways that a vote could be wasted: (1) the candidate that the voter truly likes already has more than enough support to win, or (2) the candidate that the voter truly likes does not have enough support to win. That's why STV does two things: (1) the surplus (or excess) ballots of candidates who already have enough votes to win are each transferred to their next-highest choice, and (2) the ballots of candidates who don't have enough support to win are each transferred to their next-highest choice.

In this country we are still using our antiquated (and defective) 18th century voting methods which allow us to express only one choice on the ballot. Because we are limited to only one choice, we don't dare vote for what we truly want--we vote for what we think we can tolerate.

Ask yourself this: how screwed up is a voting method when a vote for the candidate you like best could end up helping to elect the candidate you like least? Is that right? Is that just? No! There is absolutely no justification for continuing to use our present voting methods (i.e., single-member districts and block voting).

Why do we limit ourselves? Why don't we allow ourselves the right to express our true preferences among ALL the available choices?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Letter To Robert Rubin of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

This letter was sent by e-mail to Mr. Robert Rubin of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mr. Rubin,

I'm a student at San Joaquin College of Law. I've read in The Examiner about the LCCV's challenge to San Mateo County's election method. I am curious as to why LCCV has not suggested the use of Single Transferable Voting as a solution to the lack of minority representation on the Board of Supervisors. Numerous legal scholars have concluded that single transferable voting is the best way to respond to (or prevent) lawsuits which claim that there is a lack of representation of minorities in an elected body.

See, for example:

Richard L. Engstrom, The Single Transferable Vote: An Alternative Remedy for Minority Vote Dilution, 27 U.S.F.L.Rev. 781, 806 (1993) (arguing that the Single Transferable Voting systems maintain minority electoral opportunities);

Steven J. Mulroy, Alternative Ways Out: A Remedial Road Map for the Use of Alternative Electoral Systems as Voting Rights Act Remedies, 77 N.C.L.Rev. 1867, 1923 (1999) (concluding that at-large ranked-ballot voting systems avoid minority vote dilution);

Steven J. Mulroy, The Way Out: A Legal Standard for Imposing Alternative Electoral Systems as Voting Rights Remedies, 33 Harv.C.R.-C.L.L.Rev. 333, 350 (1998) (arguing that preferential voting systems enhance minority representation); and

Alexander Athan Yanos, Note, Reconciling the Right to Vote With the Voting Rights Act, 92 Colum.L.Rev. 1810, 1865-66 (1992) (arguing that Single Transferable Voting serves to preserve the minority's right to representation).

Using Single Transferable Voting (STV) would allow San Mateo County to retain its at-large approach to elections, but at the same time would ensure that minorities elect their fair share of representatives. (Under STV, if 5 candidates are to be elected, then any group which makes up slightly more than one-sixth of the population is guaranteed a representative). And, STV possesses none of the problems that arise under District methods (e.g., districts which often need to be gerrymandered in order to achieve the right number of "safe" districts for one particular ethnicity). It should also be noted that increasing the number of supervisors to 7 or 9 would increase the likelihood that minorities are elected, whether Single Transferable Voting or Districts are used.

Thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail. I hope that you would like to discuss the issue further, either by e-mail or over the telephone.

Ryan Dunning

I am pleased to report that I received the following response:

We are not opposed to STV (the CVRA allows for it) and would advocate for such a system under appropriate circumstances. Thanks for your interest.

This is very exciting! I hope to work with LCCR in advocating Single Transferable Vote as a remedy to violations of the California Voting Rights Act. Or better yet, as a way to prevent lawsuits under the CVRA!