Category:Electoral System Reform
Voting Systems and Participatory Democracy
- Election Reform in the US
- It's time for Proportional Representation
- It's time for Preference Voting Systems like "Ranked Choice Voting" (RCV) or "Instant-Runoff Voting"
Voting Rights Act / Voter Suppression
Ranked Choice Passes in Maine
Is Ranked Choice Voting Too Complicated?
California pushes RCV reform
- Governor Brown questions how it will effect voter participation
In 2010, Jennifer Pae, Director of FairVote California, sat in Oakland City Hall listening to the debate about whether ranked choice voting (RCV) should be implemented for that election year, despite the fact that in 2006, voters had overwhelmingly supported ranked choice voting to be adopted by a margin of 69% to 31%. Oakland voters knew that consolidating a June primary to a general election was more just and fair because turnout is highest and more diverse in November.
This conversation was only made possible because Oakland is a charter city and voters were able to make this decision. The type of election system a community uses has a direct impact on the type of representation people get. Unfortunately, under current state law, general law cities and many kinds of districts must use a single-round “plurality” voting method, also known as “winner-take-all” or “first-past-the-post.” Whatever it is called, plurality voting can have terrible results because of vote splitting and the spoiler effect. Without a majority requirement, a crowded field of three or more candidates could mean a winner is declared with a third of the vote or less because too many similar candidates can split the vote.
In contrast, state law prohibits general law counties from using a plurality system. Instead, it requires that they must use a majority two-round runoff system, even as it bizarrely prohibits general law cities from doing so. SB 1288 would have given both cities and counties more options, including an efficient single-round majority system in the form of ranked choice voting.
SB 1288 provided an opportunity for all California communities to have more options, just like Oakland, so they can better select an election method that reflects the will of the people and their needs. It is disappointing that Governor Jerry Brown decided to veto SB 1288. FairVote agree with Governor Brown, we want to encourage more voter participation, especially since California’s voter turnout has been at record lows.
That is what SB 1288 sought to do — that is, encourage participation by giving more options to more voters for electing a true representative. By depriving cities and counties the choice of which voting method works best for their communities, including an opportunity to use ranked choice voting so that voters have more voice and a greater choice, Governor Brown is making the choice for them.
Governor Brown overlooked the most comprehensive study on the impact of ranked choice voting on voter turnout by Professor David Kimball of Missouri-St. Louis and Ph.D. candidate Joseph Anthony. Their study has two key findings: 1) ranked choice voting has limited positive or negative impacts on turnout and 2) turnout in ranked choice voting general elections is higher than in primary or runoff elections. Local election turnout is influenced more by factors like a competitive mayoral election, other races on the ballot (including initiatives), and the use of even year elections. When compared to primary and runoff elections, ranked choice voting general elections are associated with a 10 point increase in voter turnout. So if general law cities want to move from a plurality system to a majority system, ranked choice voting would in fact be a better option for participation.
Furthermore, the 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, working with professors Caroline J. Tolbert and Todd Donovan, conducted rigorous independent opinion polls in the four California cities with ranked choice voting and seven control cities without it. They explored voters’ experiences, showing that voters understanding of RCV is actually higher than their understanding of winner-take-all elections in plurality cities (22% vs. 12%). They also found a strong majority of voters want to keep their RCV system, perhaps in part because they experienced more civil campaigning and more direct engagement with candidates than in non-RCV cities.
Jennifer Pae: As a daughter of immigrants, I’m shocked to see that Governor Brown would assume RCV is “overly complicated and confusing” when our current election system has been a challenge for many voters, particularly from underrepresented communities, and require significant improvements to achieve full participation. RCV gives voters an opportunity to rank their candidates, just like we rank our preferences on a daily basis. We should continuously engage and educate voters, whether it’s with RCV or not, as our country and state continues to become increasingly diverse. SB 1288 addresses the need for voter education and we are proud to have the support of Asian Americans Advancing Justice which sees this issue on a daily basis.
We are incredibly thankful for the leadership of Senator Mark Leno, Senator Ben Allen, Senator Loni Hancock, and Assemblymember David Chiu for carrying the bill forward to passage. We are also proud of the support from the entire Bay Area delegation: Asm. Tony Thurmond, Asm. Rob Bonta, Asm. Phil Ting, and Senator Bob Wieckowski. They have a deep understanding of how their constituents have benefited from RCV and why this option should be available to all Californians.
While this news is certainly a setback, we are encouraged by the progress for fairer local elections shown by the bill making it this far. SB 1288 earned the votes of 74 of 120 California legislators and the backing of a range of groups, including the League of California Cities and the League of Women Voters of California. A special thank you to California Common Cause and Californians for Electoral Reform for sponsoring the bill and building bipartisan support.
Along with the bill’s many supporters, we will continue to raise awareness about ranked choice voting, including in the 121 charter cities that have the option to join Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Leandro in using it. For the 361 general law cities and counties in California, which are unable to adopt RCV, we hope to continue the conversation to enhance voter participation and simplify the voting process to make elections more fair and representative.
Voter Turnout - http://www.fairvote.org/research_rcvvoterturnout
California / RCV - http://www.fairvote.org/ranked-choice-voting-in-the-bay-area
Voter Understanding of Ranked Choice Voting - https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/toolkit-voter-understanding
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- Election Reform
More election systems info at FairVote
SJS / Siterunner: In the US, electoral participation and public support of government hover at historic lows as of the second decade of the new century. The problems and issues that undercut public belief and confidence in government are deep. Yet, the hope going forward is that effective electoral reforms that act to make 'open up' government and bring more public participation will impact quality of life. The values of democratic discussion, debate and decision-making are seen in a working, supported political system. The converse is true too -- a system that is not believed in or supported moves away from the public interest. The following are a number of electoral reform proposals that share the goal of improved community.
Popular reforms can include:
Voting system reforms, such as proportional representation, "two-round" and instant-runoff voting... citizen initiatives and referendums ...
Improved voting can include:
- Ballot Access (see Ballot Access News for more info re: US fed/state election law news)
- Access to Debates (e.g., the current Presidential Debate Commission controls access to the US televised national debates and is run by a corporate entity comprised of representatives from the two major parties, Democrat and Republican. Rules that narrow/eliminate participation by third-party candidates, even 'major-minor' third parties such as the Green Party (www.gp.org) and Libertarian Party (www.lp.org) act as a barrier to opening up debate on a range of issues.
- Vote-counting procedures
- Rules about political parties, changes to election laws (in the US, the two major parties at the federal/state level have passed a complex and restrictive array of ballot access laws and requirements that prevent participation by independent/third-party candidates/parties. These restrictive laws, for electoral system reform to take place, must be revisited and changed)
- Eligibility to vote / Factors which affect the rate of voter participation (voter identification and many other requirements counter improved electoral reforms and voter access. Often eligibility rules are employed that reduce participation and voter turnout.)
- How candidates and political parties are able to stand (nomination rules) and how they are able to get their names onto ballots (ballot access)
- Electoral constituencies and election district borders ('gerrymandering', i.e. skewing the drawing of district boundaries to fit partisan goals, is often utilized and runs counter to full and fair voter participation and representation)
- Ballot design and voting equipment
- Scrutineering (election monitoring by candidates, political parties, etc.)
- Financing of candidate campaigns and referendum campaigns (the 'opening up' of electoral systems to increase participation, debate and heightened public approval of political representatives and government requires a 'push back' from overt, undue influence of money in politics. Money in Politics / Campaign Finance Reform)
2016 US Election Returns
- Evidence that U.S. electronic voting equipment in many areas throughout the country is not counting the votes accurately.
DRE voting machine - Wikipedia
A direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter (typically buttons or a touchscreen); that processes data by means of a computer program...
Electoral System / Representation Issues
See Maps of Electoral Systems Worldwide
http://aceproject.org/ (Ace Project - Electoral Knowledge Network)
PR -- Proportional Representation
Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems by which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. If 30% of the electorate support a particular political party, then roughly 30% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result: not just a plurality, or a bare majority, of them. Proportional representation requires the use of multiple-member voting districts (also called super-districts); it is not possible using single-member districts alone...
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) / ‘ranking the candidates’ systems are used in California and Minnesota, among many other locations.
Cities that use RCV in California include Oakland (http://www.acgov.org/rov/rcv/), Berkeley (https://www.cityofberkeley.info/rcv/), San Leandro and San Francisco (http://www.sfelections.org/demo/). Cities in Minnesota that use RCV include St. Paul (http://votestpaul.org) and Minneapolis (http://vote.minneapolismn.gov/rcv/index.htm0)
A proportional representation form of RCV for multi-candidate elections is used in Cambridge, Massachusetts (https://www.cambridgema.gov/election2015/ccouncil/15CouncFinal%20Round15.htm).
Countries that use the system include Australia (http://www.eca.gov.au/systems/proportional/), Ireland (http://www.environ.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/guide_to_ireland_pr-stv_system_0.pdf), and Scotland (http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Government/Elections/guidance/VotingSystems2).
Reforms and Other Voting Systems, e.g., Consensus Decisions
Private and small groups and organizations occasionally employ voting systems like 'consensus decision-making'.
(Siterunner: Many problems arise within these forms of voting, as many have realized in the 'process' of utilizing these systems (e.g., the US Green Party). As Wikipedia enumerates, consensus decision-making has many inherent limitations. The US Green Party, as one example, employs a type of consensus decision-making and attempts to build participation using a consensus decision-making process have produced many issues and setbacks, from small cliques blocking progress across to mass departure of Green participants uninterested in interminable 'process'. The failures of the Green Party's consensus decision-making process is a challenge that needs to be taken up. More about Green Party history here: Founding US Green Party Platform and First Presidential Campaign)
Wikipedia points out a number of the issues with consensus process:
- Criticism of blocking: Critics of consensus blocking often observe that the option, while potentially effective for small groups of motivated or trained individuals with a sufficiently high degree of affinity, has a number of possible shortcomings --
(Of course, political parties at the national and/or state level are not "small groups" nor are they "trained individuals with a sufficient high degree of affinity" as noted below. In the real world, political parties are multi-dimensioned and diverse, with an ongoing challenge of bringing together and motivating action by many differnt individual points of view and groups within the party. Consensus, in fact, is rare and consensus decision-making process is typically a forced process. Independent political parties attract 'independent thinkers' and a 'rainbow' of views. The challenge of organizing independent thinkers is not aided by constrained decision-making and 'blocking' by zealous party members. The history of the Green Party has been one of small cliques in control of the Green Party, using the consensus process to block constructive actions. The challenge that successful Greens faced in this setting was in 'organizing diversity' and employing a quick-decisioned, fast-moving and -growing process, not a laborious, long-winded, easily blocked process, one that had produced (and continues to produce) attrition and frustration.)
Listed shortcomings include:
- Preservation of the status quo: In decision-making bodies that use formal consensus, the ability of individuals or small minorities to block agreement gives an enormous advantage to anyone who supports the existing state of affairs. This can mean that a specific state of affairs can continue to exist in an organization long after a majority of members would like it to change. The incentive to block can however be removed by using a special kind of voting process.
- Susceptibility to widespread disagreement: Giving the right to block proposals to all group members may result in the group becoming hostage to an inflexible minority or individual. When a popular proposal is blocked the group actually experiences widespread disagreement, the opposite of the consensus process's goal. Furthermore, "opposing such obstructive behavior [can be] construed as an attack on freedom of speech and in turn [harden] resolve on the part of the individual to defend his or her position." As a result, consensus decision-making has the potential to reward the least accommodating group members while punishing the most accommodating.
- Stagnation and group dysfunction: When groups cannot make the decisions necessary to function (because they cannot resolve blocks), they may lose effectiveness in accomplishing their mission.
- Susceptibility to splitting and excluding members: When high levels of group member frustration result from blocked decisions or inordinately long meetings, members may leave the group, try to get to others to leave, or limit who has entry to the group.
- Channeling decisions away from an inclusive group process: When group members view the status quo as unjustly difficult to change through a whole group process, they may begin to delegate decision-making to smaller committees or to an executive committee. In some cases members will be begin to act unilaterally because they are frustrated with a stagnated group process.
These issues are not readily soluble at scale, in other words, the consensus decision-making process cannot easily, or readily, grow with an organization in a dynamic ('change over time') manner.
Additional issues with consensus decision-making include "twinkling" (often producing hilarity rather than any 'seriousness' about any group raising their hands and 'twinkling' to indicate supposed consensus.)
Other serious consensus decision-making issues noted by Wikipedia include:
- Groupthink (Many (including GreenPolicy's siterunner) have pointed out multiple problems with 'group thinking'.)
Cory Doctorow, Ralph Nader and other proponents of deliberative democracy or judicial-like methods view explicit dissent as a symbol of strength. Lawrence Lessig considers it a major strength of working projects like public wikis. Schutt, Starhawk and other practitioners of direct action focus on the hazards of apparent agreement followed by action in which group splits become dangerously obvious.
- Unanimous, or apparently unanimous, decisions can have drawbacks. They may be symptoms of a systemic bias, a rigged process (where an agenda is not published in advance or changed when it becomes clear who is present to consent), fear of speaking one's mind, a lack of creativity (to suggest alternatives) or even a lack of courage (to go further along the same road to a more extreme solution that would not achieve unanimous consent).
- Unanimity is achieved when the full group apparently consents to a decision. It has disadvantages insofar as further disagreement, improvements or better ideas then remain hidden, but effectively ends the debate moving it to an implementation phase. Some consider all unanimity a form of groupthink, and some experts propose "coding systems...for detecting the illusion of unanimity symptom." Confusion between unanimity and consensus, in other words, usually causes consensus decision-making to fail, and the group then either reverts to majority or supermajority rule or disbands...
- Criticism of majority voting processes
Some proponents of consensus decision-making view procedures that use majority rule as undesirable for several reasons. Majority voting is regarded as competitive, rather than cooperative, framing decision-making in a win/lose dichotomy that ignores the possibility of compromise or other mutually beneficial solutions. Carlos Santiago Nino, on the other hand, has argued that majority rule leads to better deliberation practice than the alternatives, because it requires each member of the group to make arguments that appeal to at least half the participants. A. Lijphart reaches the same conclusion about majority rule, noting that majority rule encourages coalition-building. Additionally, opponents of majority rule claim that it can lead to a 'tyranny of the majority', a scenario in which a majority places its interests so far above those of an individual or minority group as to constitute active oppression. Some voting theorists, however, argue that majority rule may actually prevent tyranny of the majority, in part because it maximizes the potential for a minority to form a coalition that can overturn an unsatisfactory decision.
(In the considered opinion, and long experience, of your GreenPolicy siterunner, attempts by the US Green Party (as one example) to use consensus decision-making ensures the ongoing dysfunction of this US national party as an serious, effective organization. Electoral system reform is overdue as the organization attempts to become a viable, growing national party.)
See More at Proportional Representation
- Election Reform in the US
It's time for Proportional Representation
- Election Reform in the UK
May 2015, as the British election produces calls to change its system, the first-past-the-post/winner-take-all system.
This electoral system, brought to the US from the British Empire, is feeling 'its age' -- and
is no longer a popular voting system in advanced industrial democracies around the world
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- Why Is Election Reform Needed in the US?
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US Political "Duopoly"
- Via Wikipedia
- See also: Two-party system
Modern American politics, in particular the electoral college system has been described as duopolistic since the Republican and Democratic parties have dominated and framed policy debate as well as the public discourse on matters of national concern for about a century and a half. Third Parties have encountered various blocks in getting onto ballots at different levels of government as well as other electoral obstacles, more so in recent decades.
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Ballot access for US presidential candidates
Profound obstacles in the way of Independent ('Third-Party') candidates obtaining ballot access in states.
This category has the following 16 subcategories, out of 16 total.
Pages in category "Electoral System Reform"
The following 10 pages are in this category, out of 10 total.
Media in category "Electoral System Reform"
The following 25 files are in this category, out of 25 total.
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