Friday, January 21, 2022

Should Seattle adopt a new electoral voting system? The conversation picks up steam.

In the Seattle area, there is increasing talk of changing the way local elections are held, allowing voters to select more than one candidate.

Earlier this month, a group of activists began campaigning for the 2022 ballots that will put Seattle on a “vote of approval” in the city’s primary. However, not all reformers think this is the best approach, and other attempts are being made.

Under the vote approval proposal, voters in the primary will be able to vote for multiple candidates. The two candidates with the most votes will go to the general election, as they do now (state law requires primaries to take the first two seats in cities like Seattle). In a general election, voters will be able to choose only one candidate, as now.

Seattle will become the only third US city to accept an approval vote, after Fargo, North Dakota, which first deployed the system last year, and St. Louis, which first deployed the system this year.

Many other jurisdictions have moved to a similar system called voting by choice by rating, including Maine, New York, Minneapolis and San Francisco. In this system, voters can vote for multiple candidates, ranking them in order of preference. The candidates with the lowest number of votes for the first choice are eliminated in the rounds, and their votes are redistributed in favor of the next choice of each voter until the victory threshold is reached.

Rating vote supporters have been organizing across Washington for years, and This summer, King County Councilor Gyrmay Zahilai introduced legislation to allow ranked voting in county elections pending electoral charter amendment.

Zahilai had originally hoped to put the issue in the November vote this year, but colleagues have asked for more time to study the issue, and Washington lawmakers plan to discuss the possibility of allowing all cities to use rated voting without primaries this winter, so he shelved the idea. …

Seattle Campaign

A new approval vote campaign called Seattle Approves requires writing and submitting a petition and then collecting more than 26,000 signatures in 180 days to qualify to vote.

Campaign leaders – Logan Bowers and Troy Davis. Bowers is a software engineer who owns cannabis shops and unsuccessfully opposed city councilor Kshama Savant in 2019. He finished sixth in the primaries and did not advance. Davis is a tech entrepreneur.

Bowers and Davis say their campaign has about a dozen core volunteers, and they conducted polls using a grant from the Center for Election Science, a nonprofit that promotes approval voting. They have registered an electoral committee and say they plan to collect signatures next year.

Proponents of approving voting say it can solve to some extent problems such as split votes, strategic voting, and political polarization. A split is when candidates with similar ideas deprive each other of support. Strategic voting is when a voter chooses the candidate he can stomach, rather than the candidate he likes best because he doubts that the latter can win. The current system arguably encourages polarization because the main candidates can be promoted by focusing on a segment of the electorate.

“You will see that the candidates are much more aggressive courting every last voter,” Bowers said.

Supporters also say a positive vote could provide a more accurate picture of voters’ views and nominate candidates with widespread appeal. They say it will be relatively easy to understand and implement.

Another kind

Some voters may choose to leave the current system alone, and even among reformers, not everyone is convinced that a positive vote is the best option.

“We think it would be a bad choice for Seattle to go in that direction (of approving voting) when rated voting by choice has such a proven track record of success,” said Lisa Eyro, director of FairVote Washington, who insists on the ranking. elective voting. Her organization has chapters in 12 districts and is supported by community leaders and elected officials.

“Where people tend to have strong preferences for their first choice and care a lot about the outcome … the rating vote is the best,” she said.

Ranked voting by choice solves the same problems, but allows voters to express their views with more nuance and is much more common in the real world, where campaign strategies and political advertising influence voter behavior, supporters say. According to them, he has centuries of experience in improving the representation of women and people of color in US cities.

“Ranking has been around for much longer. There are many more case studies and examples, ”Zahilai said.

Zahilai said he believed both systems would be an improvement over current primary laws because they both allow voters to vote for multiple candidates, encourage candidates to ‘campaign for all,’ and encourage collaboration between like-minded candidates. not the venomous struggle we are witnessing. Now.”

Critics of approving voting say many voters using the system will continue to vote for only one candidate because voting for multiple candidates could hurt their favorite candidate’s chances. When voters select multiple candidates, an approving vote can reward those who dislike the most or adhere to the status quo, which can exclude candidates from under-represented communities, which also worries some critics.

“On the other hand, people are looking for solutions,” said Kamau Chege, director of the Washington Community and a proponent of FairVote in Washington. On the other hand, he said, “Seattle’s affirmative vote is a niche movement, mostly made up of white engineers who I don’t think took the time to listen to the organizations and communities of color” working on the election.

Real world

Between 2007 and 2009, Pierce County tried to do ranked voting, in part as a way to ditch the party’s primaries, and then stopped using it when the entire state dropped the party’s primaries.

But across the country, 43 jurisdictions used the system in their last elections, and more than 50 plan to use it in their next elections, according to national organization FairVote.

Last year, the St. Louis approval ballot received 68% of the vote. The impetus was a split vote among progressive candidates, said Tyler Schlichenmeyer, who helped lead the campaign.

According to Schlichenmeyer, the residents of St. Louis were initially baffled by the idea. “But after a few seconds of explaining the problem and solving it, they thought, ‘Oh, that makes sense,” he said.

Following an approving vote in the St. Louis mayor’s primary this year, two progressive candidates have been nominated. – said Schlichenmeyer. Voters chose an average of 1.56 candidates, meaning some still voted for only one candidate. The average was closer to 1 in urban alderman races. “We are confident that the approval vote went exactly as intended,” Schlichenmeyer said.

Seattle’s political landscape is different, and it is impossible to predict how an approval vote would change the results here this year, in part because a different system could have influenced who runs and how.

For better or worse, incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes can be envisioned moving towards a general election with an approving vote rather than being ousted by rivals on the left and right if enough voters on both sides decide to insure their bets, Bowers said. ..

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