Monday, March 3, 2014

Councilman to introduce instant runoff voting for all elections -- about time!

Seemingly every year, politicians in DC get elected with a very small percentage of the total vote. Because of DC's system and the huge majority Democrats have, the primary election becomes the de facto general election. Since there can be many candidates, that means the winner may only get 30% of the total vote, or less.

It's a crazy system, one which gave us Anita Bonds winning the at-large election last year with just 32% of the vote and Vincent Orange winning his race in 2011 with a measly 28%. To put it another way, 68% and 72% of people voted against Bonds and Orange, and yet they're our councilmembers. And because of the primary system and the small tournot, when Anita Bonds won with just over 16,000 votes, she was supported by a total of 3% of the registered votes in DC. That's insane.

But maybe that's about to end. Councilman David Grosso has introduced a bill making all primaries open to all parties, and making them instant runoff voting -- that means people can rank their preferences in candidates. Here's how Wikipedia describes instant runoff voting:

It is a form of preferential voting (or ranked choice voting) in which voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than simply selecting a single candidate. 
Ballots are initially distributed based on each voter's first preference. If a candidate secures more than half of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to eliminated candidates are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining candidates based on the next preference on each ballot. This process continues until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes.
So basically, more people will get a candidate they actually like. It also means you don't need to worry about "electability," which I heard a lot talking to people about in previous elections -- they liked people like Patrick Mara or Bryan Weaver or Matthew Frumin, but didn't think they could win, so they voted for somebody else. I've written about it twice before and the Washington Post made the same argument at least twice before.

The idea would also probably encourage more interest in the elections, since everybody can now vote at the same time, and they'd have more of an opportunity to vote for who they wanted. And more interest in elections is always a good thing.

The system is slightly more complicated than regular voting, but it's being used successfully in other big cities like Oakland, San Francisco and Minneapolis. And considering the benefits, I don't see how anybody could be opposed.

I sure hope this passes. I'm going to email my councilmembers immediately, asking them to support it. I hope you do too.

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