Free and Fair Elections and Their Discontents

Fundamentally, the Democrat-Republican political class and ruling establishment are opposed to free, fair and competitive elections in the United States.  The reason is simple: free, fair and competitive elections would threaten their monopoly on elected office at all levels of government.  Consider the response to the San Francisco mayoral election, which took place earlier this month.  San Francisco voters adopted ranked choice voting via referendum in 2002.  This year's election was the first in which the ranked choice system "came into play."  From the San Francisco Examiner in June: 
This way of voting for San Francisco’s mayor has yet to be tested in a citywide race — this is the first time what is known as ranked-choice voting will come into play in the race for The City’s top post.
There’s a lot of guesswork being done by candidates in the crowded field and by political insiders on how it will impact the results.  It was voters themselves who decided to use this system of voting when they approved Proposition A in March 2002.  [Emphasis added.]
Ultimately, the election was won by incumbent Democrat Ed Lee, who came out on top in a field of at least fifteen candidates.  Already, however, the city's political establishment have already launched an all out assault against the alternative voting method.  From KQED News last week:
Now critics are zeroing in on the ranked-choice system, hoping to repeal it before another city election rolls around. The proposal is being fronted by city Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell, who calls the system a “failed experiment.” They hope to put the issue to voters next year.  Opponents have a good shot, said Charles Marsteller, former head of Common Cause in San Francisco.
“Regardless of its merits, ranked-choice voting will probably be repealed,” he said in an interview. Ordinary voters struggle with the system because “it’s complicated,” he said. And politicians and political professionals quickly grew to dislike it because its results were so unpredictable.  “It’s hard to estimate outcomes with ranked-choice voting,” Marsteller said. “You don’t know if the polls are right. The political consultants don’t like it.” [Emphasis added.]
Ranked choice voting is not complicated at all.  Rank your top three candidates in order of preference.  How complicated is that?  Of course, those who feel threatened by any such reform have an immediate interest in making it appear to be more complicated than it is in fact.  The more telling argument against the alternative system is the fact that political strategists, consultants and pundits don't like it because it makes the outcome of an election unpredictable!

The complaint that the alternative voting method makes elections unpredictable is highly revealing.  These strategists, consultants and pundits make a mockery of free and fair elections.  The implicit assumption of their argument should be held in the highest contempt by supporters of free elections, namely, that elections should be predictable.  For these individuals, elections are nothing more than a formality, a sham, a choreographed charade meant to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the rule of an entrenched faction.  Perhaps they would have been more comfortable in Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Stalin's Russia, where the outcome of elections were always known well in advance of election day.


DLW said...

I think it'd be easier if a two stage approach were used. Like before, let folks rank up to three candidates.

Then, in the first stage, count up the number of times each candidate gets ranked by voter(if voters ranked the same candidate more than once, it would only count once). Publish these results on election night. Make the three candidates who get ranked most often be the finalists.

Then, for the second stage, use an instant runoff vote. First, tally the number of times the three finalists are the favorite of voters. If one is preferred by a majority of voters then (s)he is the winner. Otherwise, eliminate the candidate who is preferred by the fewest voters and transfer her/his votes as much as possible to the other two candidates. Then, after tallying the votes for the two finalists, the one with the most votes wins.

Does that sound simple enuf, D.Eris? It could be done in two days time, most of the time...

d.eris said...

I don't think ranked choice sounds complicated at all. I mean, under the system you literally just rank your top three choices for the office in order of preference. As a voter, you don't have to tabulate anything. It is just an instant runoff, no? But maybe it would help people understand the system even better to announce results in stages as you suggest, dlw.

DLW said...

Well that's what's usually the source of confusion for folks. If there's a lot of candidates then there's a lot of stages whereby one candidate gets eliminated at a time.

IRV is basically a way to "caucus" without having to all meet together at the same time.