Victor: Wonks

You’ve probably heard:  Saint Paul had its first “Instant Runoff Vote” last week.

And I think the results demonstrated why so many cities that have tried to implement IRV have repealing it.

Doug Bass was less unimpressed by it than I was, and he helpfully ran an instant replay on the St. Paul Ward 2 “Instant Runoff”; 61% of Ward 2 voters initially rejected incumbent councilman Dave Thune, who won after three rounds of counting.  Bass unpacks the whole process (read the whole thing).

Bass concludes:

At this point, Im willing to accept that IRV provides a reasonable snapshot of the will of the people, until shown otherwise.  I would like to see the returns in more detail.  For example, out of all the first choice ballots for Thune, how were the second choices distributed?  Did a ballot with Thune as the fifth choice put him over the top?  Someone might say its none of my business.  But that doesnt keep me from wondering.

I have more pedestrian worries.  The campaigns this time around seemed to worry more about how to game the ranked-choice system than they did on actually talking issues.  Granted, it’s a one-party city, so they never have to actually talk issues.

Which is a signal fact of Instant Runoff Voting; it seems to get adopted in one-party cities like Saint Paul, Minneapolis, Tacoma and the like.  Could it work in a place with competitive races?

We may never know.  I’m not aware that it’s been tried.  And even many of the one-party cities that adopted it in a wave of fanfare over the past decade are quietly retiring the idea.

What do they know that we don’t?

It’s mostly a rhetorical question.

3 thoughts on “Victor: Wonks

  1. Douglas Bass wrote:

    “Someone might say it’s none of my business”

    Yeah, election results are none of your business. What now? No, that’s silly.

    Just because IRV makes the election results far more complicated and heavy with detail doesn’t mean everyone should not know every one of those details.

  2. I’m curious about scenarios in which voters behave outside of predicted scenarios. Unlikely? You bet. The history of disasters is filled with unintended consequences. In my crude example, a highly partisan election between three candidates A, B and C. There are 100 voters and IRV is in use. Supporters of candidates A and B are so partisan that they don’t list 2nd and third choices. Candidate C’s supporters are willing to rank B in second place and A in third place. A has 40 first choice votes, B 35 and C 25. C is then eliminated and his 25 votes go to candidate B. Therefore, B has a revised total of 60 votes and is declared the winner. A files an injunction to invalidate the election because he contends he got 61% of first place votes of voters whose votes were counted in the runoff, whereas B only got 58%. The spoiler effect of C throws the election to B. That, combined with the hyperpartisan behavior of A and B supporters.

  3. An interesting study would be to see which voters (by party affiliation) ranked who as their second choice.

    What I hope the study would show is who voters of a certain party thought they had most in common with. ie Do Dems think they have more in common with Republicans or CPUSA?

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