You need just this one reason to vote no

There are so many things wrong with the wacky charter "reform" package on the November ballot here in Portland. It's a hard no for several reasons. But the most potent poison pill in the whole proposal is the goofball, untested variation on "ranked-choice voting" that's being forced down our throats if we want to get rid of the current disastrous "commission" form of government.

The kids at the Weed tried to figure out how it works, and they barely did, although what they did figure out, written up here, is enough to make your hair hurt.

The last thing this country needs is to make the election process too complicated for anyone to understand. Besides, "ranked-choice" voting is a solution in search of a problem. The City Council is already 60 percent BIPOC (and 100 percent ineffective). 

We can change the city's form of government without subjecting ourselves to this. There's an alternative charter change plan, discussed here, and it's ready to be voted on in May. It's superior for several reasons, but most importantly because it doesn't have this lunacy in it. Portlanders, please, for the love of God please, vote no on Measure 26-228 and hold out for the saner version in the spring.


  1. Trying to figure that out was the worst LSAT question ever

  2. This is not an attempt to persuade you of anything but rather to try to state the explanation for the single transferable vote (STV) counting method just to help anyone who didn’t find the Weed’s attempt very helpful.

    First, a disclaimer — If you want single-member districts/wards, nothing about STV will appeal because it solves a problem you don’t think needs solving. If we vote “as usual” (each voter has one vote for one candidate only) in single member districts, then the election is really decided whenever the lines are drawn, and we will have winners elected without majority support fairly often because our historic voting method often misfires when there are more than two candidates (see Kotek/Drazen/Johnson). And with single winner races, we often end up with voters not having any representation by someone they voted for — for example, the R’s in Portland and Eugene are completely frozen out, as are the D’s in Roseburg.

    The three-member districts idea offers a way for minorities to win some representation in every district while ensuring that the candidates favorited by the majority win the most seats. It does so by trying to find the three winners with the most total support from the most voters. It’s a method to maximize voter power, addressing the problems of wasted votes (votes that don’t help elect anyone, either because the candidate is a loser with little support but also when a candidate has overwhelming support, and all those excess votes were wasted). STV is a method that says “We are going to try to wring the most power out of ALL voter’s votes so that, as far as possible, each vote counts as much as it can - regardless of whether you tend to like the favorites or whether your choices start at the other end. No matter your preferences, we will try to apply your vote so it will help elect someone you listed as worthy of your vote.”

    As you know from explaining the tax code, people are famously allergic to math, especially if you use the F word (fractions). But people aren’t angry because understanding the tax code involves math, it’s because it’s taxes. And right now, people are so angry about dysfunctional politics that explaining how STV transfers votes to maximize voter power gets caught up in the crossfire. (½)


  3. Imagine if, instead of picking NFL Underdogs, you held a big party where your readers would pick the three charity projects for everyone to support. The way it would work is that you give each reader 100 marbles and they could drop their marbles into a glass bowl with the name of each charity. Each bowl is the same size. The bowls are sized so that when three are full, all the marbles in all the other bowls are less than a full bowl’s worth.

    If we were at your party, we would know not to drop our marbles into a full bowl because it would be wasted — once a bowl is full, we would know to use the rest of our marbles to support our second favorite project, or our third once there are two full bowls. STV just gives us a way to do the same thing in an election where we won’t be able to see how much support any of the projects (candidates) have — it’s a way to say “I want to drop all my marbles into supporting this project if it needs it, but if it’s eliminated (because few other people support it or because it’s already full) then I want to be able to move my marbles to supporting my next choices.

    People are becoming familiar with part of this, because ranked-choice voting in single-winner races is becoming common again — in RCV, the candidate elimination is from the bottom up only … if you really like Machine Gun Johnson but she isn’t going to win and is eliminated, then your vote transfers to your second choice, instead of helping elect the candidate you like the least.

    In the multi-member district setting, the transfers also work “top down” — just like the extra marbles in the most-popular charity’s case . . . Instead of the extra marbles just being wasted and falling on the floor, they transfer to each voter’s second choice, or third choice, etc. It requires math because we do this through ballots in the mail instead of marbles in glass bowls, but the result is the same … we find the three candidates (charities or office-seekers) who actually have the most support in the crowd, instead of having weird misfires where you have officeholders elected from District A with 100,000 votes in a walk-away, but another candidate elected in District B with 32,000 votes because of vote splitting.

    As I say, if you think multiple member districts are stupid, then STV is stupid squared and this is all just unnecessary. But it’s not inexplicable, and if we had been voting this way since kindergarten we’d think it was all just self-evidently easy. (2/2)


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