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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I like Ranked Choice Voting


I just read an article in The Bangor Daily News of Maine, by Dick Woodbury, who served 10 years in the Maine Legislature, advocating for a less partisan approach to politics and policy-making.  He is leading a citizen initiative to establish Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) in Maine.

He writes:

The best and most cost-effective of these reforms is ranked choice voting, which uses a vote counting process that is identical to holding run-off elections, while avoiding the delay, expense and drop in participation of requiring voters to go back to the polls.

The key point is this: With ranked choice voting, your ballot already indicates who you would choose in a run-off election, if a run-off count is needed to establish a majority winner.


These are his 6 reasons for supporting RCV:

1. The finally elected candidate is chosen by a majority of voters.

2. There is no such thing as a spoiler candidate.  If a candidate turns out not to be electable, then he or she is eliminated in the counting process.  The candidate doesn’t “spoil” the result by taking away votes from somebody else.

3. Voters can cast their vote for a preferred candidate without the strategic dilemma of potentially helping a candidate they oppose.

4. By avoiding spoiler candidates and strategic voting, the entire messaging of campaigns, media coverage and public evaluation of candidates will focus on issues, vision, experience and capabilities; not on polling and electability.

5. Elected candidates can serve with a credibility and mandate that can only be delivered by a majority of votes cast.

6. Most importantly, campaigns will be more civil and respectful, as candidates avoid alienating their opponents’ supporters.  Rather than only appealing to loyal supporters, a winning candidate needs to appeal to a genuine majority of all voters, including those whose first choice may be somebody else.

This initiative will be on the Maine ballot in November 2016.

I strongly support this method of voting.  But I would go farther and remove primary elections and just have a General Election with Ranked-Choice Voting.

This would be like voting in Louisiana with RCV.

What do you think about this type of voting?











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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Presidential Candidate Eligibility Before Putting Them on Ballots


Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

On January 13, 2015, two individuals who had previously run for President filed a petition for cert with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to rule that California election officials have a constitutional duty to investigate the constitutional qualifications of presidential candidates before listing them on the ballot.

The two individuals who filed the case are John Albert Dummett, Jr., and Edward C. Noonan.  Dummett had declared for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and is also seeking the nomination in 2016.  Noonan had sought the presidential nomination of the American Independent Party in 2012.  The case is Dummett v Padilla, 14-826.

The cert petition deals with the issue of presidential constitutional qualifications is unsettled law that the Court should settle for the sake of future elections.

California’s Secretary of State kept some minor party presidential candidates off the 2012 presidential primary ballots because of constitutional qualification concerns, yet refused to investigate the qualifications of some major party presidential candidates in both 2008 and 2012.

The problem for lawsuits like this one is that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to reject electoral votes cast for ineligible presidential candidates.  Page 26 of the cert petition says, “After a general election has occurred, it is unrealistic to expect that objections will be lodged by Members of Congress based on the constitutional eligibility of a candidate.”

This particular case was filed in California state courts.  The state court of appeals rejected the case last year, and the California Supreme Court refused to hear it on October 15, 2014.

Do you believe that all presidential candidates should have to pass this qualification before they are put on a ballot?











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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The 24th Amendment and Poll Taxes


I just read an article by Doug Chapin, on the website Election Academy of the University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of the ratification of the 24th Amendment, which prohibited the practice of poll taxes in federal elections.

South Dakota's vote on that date in 1964 gave the amendment the 38 states needed for ratification.  Two years later, the Supreme Court's opinion in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections used equal protection to extend the ban to non-federal elections.  Five states, including Virginia, ratified the amendment post-1964.

These days, the notion of being required to pay a tax in order to cast a ballot seems anachronistic, but time has done nothing to dispel the arguments about whether voting barriers still exist and whether they constitute a "poll tax".

The most obvious example is the continuing battle over voter ID, where opponents claim that the cost to obtain an ID, either directly or in the cost of supporting documents required to obtain a "free" ID, is tantamount to a poll tax.  This argument has actually been quite persuasive, to the point where it is now standard practice for states requiring voter ID to provide it free of charge to voters who lack it.  Indeed, the drive to ensure that cost is not a barrier is the new front in the war over ID, with plaintiffs arguing that difficulties in obtaining "free" ID should prevent or delay its implementation.

Nowadays, whenever long lines at polling stations occur, there is the concern that voters are being asked to pay a "time tax" by being forced to wait.  These concerns are especially acute when longer lines are not evenly distributed across communities.

As the field of elections evolves, it will be interesting to see if the notion of a poll tax, in its more modern time/inconvenience formulation, also evolves.  With the advent of wider opportunities for registration and voting, will the ability of some voters to register and vote more quickly be an issue with respect to those who cannot?  Will wait times previously thought to be "short" become "long" as processes improvement becomes burdensome?  And if they do, how, if at all, will policymakers and courts react?

If nothing else, the 24th Amendment forces all of us to confront the "cost" of voting to the voter and decide when that cost is too high.

He ends with, "However that line is drawn, I'm very confident that the idea of a "poll tax" will remain a powerful criticism of any election policy or procedure seen as creating financial and/or time barriers to voters."











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Friday, January 23, 2015

Maine Committee for Ranked Choice Voting


To qualify as a ballot question in Maine, a petition must be signed by at least 10 percent of the number of voters who turn out Nov. 4.

It is estimated that, to be successful, 60,000 verified voter signatures will be needed, meaning the petitioners will have to collect roughly 75,000 signatures to allow for errors, illegible signatures and other abnormalities.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has collected more than 60,000 signatures to put RCV on the November 2016 ballot and won support from Maine’s largest newspaper.

The petition drive is backed by independent state Sen. Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth and Democratic state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland.

From the Portland Press Herald's Editorial Board:

The second most important thing voters can do on Election Day is to pause after casting their ballots and sign a petition to bring ranked-choice or instant-runoff voting to Maine elections.

It is a voting system designed for elections with more than two candidates that is employed in a number of U.S. cities, including Portland.  It fixes two of the main problems of multi-candidate elections: It guarantees that the eventual winner has the approval of a majority of the electorate, and it provides a way for people to vote for a first choice, even if it looks as though that person can’t win, and still have the ability to positively influence the election’s outcome.

Before this could become the law in Maine, there is a lot of work to do.  The first challenge will be education: Even though ranking is a simple process that we all do all the time in our daily lives, many people will be skeptical about a change in electoral process this significant until they fully understand it.

The next challenge will be legal.  Maine’s constitution requires candidates to get a plurality of the votes to win an election, not necessarily a majority.  If the electoral reform measure receives enough signatures to get before the Legislature, it could be shot down as unconstiutional by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

That would not be the end, however: The Legislature could begin the process of a constitutional amendment, which would eventually go to the voters for approval.

But before any of that can happen, enough people have to sign the petitions to move the discussion forward.

We have a system that is constructed to serve a world that no longer exists.  Across the nation, political parties are becoming less representative of the population, and technological advances have made it easier than ever for individuals and small parties to reach a large number of donors and voters.

Mainers who are tired of campaigns like the one that is now coming to an end should mark the name of their favorite candidate on their ballots and then put their own names on a petition to fix this broken system.












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9th Annual Voting and Elections Summit 2015




Mark Your Calendar - for February 5-6, 2015!

Join the U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, FairVote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for the Ninth Annual Voting and Elections Summit on February 5-6, 2015, to examine the profound and persistent issues surrounding U.S. voter participation, engagement in our democracy, and what we can do about it.

The 2014 midterm election had the lowest turnout since 1942, with more than 144 million eligible voters not casting a vote.  With the 2016 election cycle already gearing up, join the two-day conference combining high-profile speakers and hands-on workshops to discuss ways to increase voter participation, voter confidence and equitable representation in our elections.

2 Days - 2 Formats: The 2015 Summit will encompass two days with two very different formats, which provide different approaches and opportunities for analysis for the audience.

Day 1: Thursday, Feb 5th, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm, followed by a Reception

- Varied program will move from keynotes to fast-paced interviews to deep discussion roundtables – all designed to expose you to ideas and tactics, which address the central questions of how to improve elections and increase participation.

CLICK HERE for the Conference Agenda.

Location: Media and Public Affairs Building, Jack Morton Auditorium, George Washington University, 805 21st NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

A reception hosted by the Veteran’s Campaign will be held after the event

Day 2: Friday, Feb, 6th, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

- A day of workshops to dig deeper into the voting and elections issues with which our community grapples.  Take the opportunity to network, share ideas and develop strategies to move your work forward.  Get ready to roll up your sleeves!

CLICK HERE for the Preliminary Workshop Agenda.

Location: Winston and Strawn, 1700 K St NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20052

CLICK HERE to register.











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Mississippi Committee Reviewed Election Law Issues


Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office set up a Committee to Review the state’s election laws last year.  On January 16, 2015, the committee issued a 18-page report.  The committee has 50 members.

The Committee discussed three general topics: (Party) Primary Election Systems, Early Voting, and Online Voter Registration.

Committee Recommendations

(Party) Primary Election Systems

The committee stated "Typically, the state legislature or Constitution determines the
qualifications required of a candidate to be placed on the primary election ballot and Governmental entities typically pay for the costs associated with a primary election."

Readers of this blog know I disagree with the cost part.  Any system that does not allow tax paying voters to take part in a primary system, one that allows the voter to select candidates nor parties, should not have to pay for the running of such election process.

The committee looked at four major primary systems utilized in the United States: Closed Primary, Semi-Closed Primary, Open Primary, and Top-Two Primary.

23 voted in favor of a Louisiana-style system

The Report refers to the Louisiana system as a top-two primary. The authors of the Report mention that California also has a top-two primary, but the Report on page 11 says “A top-two primary election system would appear to operate as a general election with a runoff, rather than a primary election which narrows the list of candidates of a political party for a general election.”  This describes the Louisiana system.  The Report mentions that the members of the Committee were visited by Louisiana election officials, who briefed them on the Louisiana system.

A would like a version of this system.  First, this eliminates two elections with just a general election with all candidates and write-ins on one open ballot.  But I would then add Ranked-Choice voting (RCV), to determine a winner.  Under this type of system, party official elections would have to be on a separate ballot just for members of the party.

20 voted in favor of keeping Mississippi’s open primary with seven abstained

Currently, Mississippi election officials must provide separate locations for the Republican primary and the Democratic primary.  Mississippi has other qualified parties but they don’t actually have primaries because the state doesn’t print up primary ballots for any party unless at least two people from the same party file to run against each other, and that virtually never happens.

The members who voted in favor of keeping the open primary recommended consolidating the Democratic and Republican primaries into the same polling locations, to save money.

Early Voting

On the issue of whether to provide for early voting or “no-excuse absentee voting”, the committee voted in favor 36-3, with 11 abstentions in support for a period of two weeks prior to Election Day.

Online Voter Registration

On the issue of whether to provide for on-line voter registration, the committee favored that idea 32-6, with 12 abstentions.

CLICK HERE to down load the PDF report.











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Thursday, January 22, 2015

NYC Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids





Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids is an innovative police-community relations model program run by the All Stars Project in partnership with the New York Police Department.  The program uses performance, improvisation and conversation to help teenagers and police officers in New York City's low income neighborhoods build respect and improve their relationship.

Cops and Kids began in 2006, at a moment when the relationship between inner-city youth and the police, while never easy, was especially tense following the shooting of Sean Bell, a young Black man in Queens.

The program was founded by Dr. Lenora Fulani, a developmental psychologist, community activist and co-founder of the All Stars Project, who was eager to change the culture of mistrust between young people in our communities and the officers who police those communities.

As she explains, "The two hardest things to be in this city are being a police officer and being a Black and Latino kid.  My interest is in helping each to see each other as a human being.  That might be useful in the middle of a tense situation one day."  Cops and Kids uses the ASP's innovative performance approach to create a new relationship between police officers and young people of color from New York's poor communities, a relationship that is all too often filled with mutual distrust, animosity and stereotypical attitudes about the 'other'.



Since the program's inception, Dr. Fulani has led over 100 workshops involving thousands of youth and police officers.

During the workshops, cops and kids play theater games and create improvisational performances together, thereby creating an environment for having honest and difficult dialogues.  In addition, thousands more community members and police officers have participated in Demonstration Workshop performances all over the city which have broadened and deepened the impact of Cops and Kids in the NYPD and across New York City communities.



This program is also part of the New York City Policy Academy programs.











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