Here, let us show you how to vote

It might be funny if it weren't so sad. The new "rank choice" election system that the City of Portland is now using for the mayor and City Council races is such a screwball setup that City Hall is going to have to go on a "voter education" drive in the lead-up to the November election.

Multiple offices in the City are planning voter education outreach – including proactive trainings, hearings, household mailers, and local community partnerships, that will take place heavily throughout the summer and fall of 2024. During the City’s first election cycle that removes the May Primary for candidates, the bulk of voter education is being handled by the Transition Team in the Office of Management and Finance. Candidate education and training, on the other hand, is being led by the City’s Elections Office, as we oversee all candidate ballot qualifications. Regardless of the office, we’ve worked together to craft a plan to help every Portlander confidently fill out their ballot for the November 2024 General Election. We are also working closely with Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington county elections offices and have involved national experts to assist with implementing the best possible voter education strategy and election planning.

Complicating matters (I think) is the fact that the city's version of "rank choice" is different from Multnomah County's version of "rank choice" that's also being put into place pretty soon. Grandma will be told to do the same things – put down "1" next to her favorite, "2" next to her second choice, and so on – but when the polls close, there will be two different sets of vote-counting rules, one for city races, another for county. Crazy? Of course, but this is Portlandia, what were you expecting?

It really is going to be amusing seeing how this is going to be explained (or not). And how it will be translated into six or eight languages, 'cause that's the Portland Way™.

"Rank choice" voting, any version of it, is a solution in search of a problem. All it does is give marginal candidates, like the foolish kids who drew up the Portland charter changes, a better shot at getting elected. As if the free campaign money they get from the taxpayers wasn't enough of an undeserved advantage. And let's face it, for most of them, a City Council salary is the dreamiest paycheck they could ever hope to get.

It's not harmless. Having an election system that almost nobody fully understands – and that requires voters to undergo "proactive trainings" – is bad for democracy at any time, but atrocious at this time, which, in case you haven't noticed, is fraught with danger. You'd think the progressive types would know better, or at least you'd have hoped they would be.

The charter kids weren't too bright. They gave us the concept of council districts, finally! But just about everything else in the package deal that they proposed, and that their out-of-town money convinced the sheeple to approve, is bad news. Only four districts, three bobbleheads from each, and nuttiest of all, a weird version of "rank choice" voting? At a time when Portland desperately needs help, all of that's going to be useless. At best.


  1. I hope the "voter outreach" can answer two big questions ...

    1. WHO GOT MY VOTE? If I ranked J. Smith #6 (i.e., last place), and Smith wins a seat, did Smith get my vote? I'll bet MultCo Elections has no way of telling a voter where their vote went.

    2. DID I VOTE FOR ONE PERSON, OR THREE? In Portland, each district has three seat, but voters only get one vote. Sure, you can rank up to six candidates, but only one candidate gets your vote. That means for every voter, you had no say in two-thirds of the council members "representing" you in your district.

    1. 1) That’s horsepuckey. In single winner RCV, you will know how the counting rounds go. Your vote counted for the last person to be eliminated before Smith got 50%+1 — so if Smith won in the first round, your vote counted for your first choice, who was eliminated along with everyone but Smith.

      2) Wrong again. The system works to apply your vote fully if possible, or as close as possible — to help elect the candidates you liked enough to rank. If you only vote for one pick, your vote either helps them win or it doesn’t if they don’t get seated.

      If you vote for more than one, and your favorite gets more than the threshold to win a seat (25% + 1 vote since there are three seats), the excess share of your vote goes to help your next-lower choice across the threshold or, if they are eliminated, the next one and so on. Ultimately, if you voted for them and they won a seat, your vote helped elect them. So your single vote might help elect one, two or even possibly all three winners.

    2. 1. It may be horsepuckey in a single winner RCV. But, Portland system has three-winner RCV, with single transferrable vote. If there are three winners, which winner - if any - got my vote?

      2. Again, Portland has three-member districts, but voters only get a single vote counted, regardless of how many candidates the voter ranks.

    3. Voters will just have to trust the process as it seems unlikely that you could ever determine how your particular set of votes was allocated without giving the elections office the power to penetrate the secret ballot veiling process.

    4. I responded to the query asked — #1 was about single winner RCV (MultCO); #2 was about multi-winner (proportional) RCV. In #2, all voters get to cast 1 vote but can rank as many candidates as they like and would want to help elect. If your top choice is eliminated, your full vote tries to find other candidates down your ranking to help elect; if your top choice win with some extra, your share of the extra goes to help elect one of your down ballot choices. In other words, it’s simply some math to try to give every voter maximum voting power.

  2. The sheep don’t care. Most would like someone else make decisions and were uncomfortable with the concept of free Will

  3. The new 'merica- old thing bad, new thing good (whatever the F it is). One councilor per district with more districts should have been how it was created. Now they get to play the blame game- those other two are messing up my dreams- and really get nothing done. Which come to think of it, might be a lot better than what we have now.


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