Tag: instant-runoff voting

My endorsements for the 2016 general election

With a few Democrat vs. Democrat contests on the ballot in the states of California and Washington, as well as numerous referenda on the ballot at the state, federal district, and local levels in many states and the District of Columbia, I hereby announce a slate of endorsements in various elections and referenda that are on the ballot in the November 8, 2016 general election.

U.S. Senate in California – Kamala Harris

California has an unusual U.S. Senate election this year, in that, instead of a Democrat, a Republican, and one or more minor party and/or independent candidates on the ballot, there are two Democrats on the ballot and no other candidates on the ballot. I endorse Kamala Harris in the California U.S. Senate race. Harris will fight to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons, end mass incarceration, ensure that women get equal pay for equal work, and protect California’s environment. Kamala’s opponent is Loretta Sanchez, who has a pattern of making offensive remarks that one would expect from someone like Donald Trump.

7th Congressional District of Washington – Pramila Jayapal

I endorsed Pramila Jayapal in the Seattle, Washington-based 7th Congressional District of Washington via Twitter a while back, so I’ll reiterate my endorsement of Pramilia here. Pramila is a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive who has fought for immigrant rights and common-sense ideas to strengthen America’s economy. Pramila’s opponent is a fellow Democrat, Brady Walkinshaw. Walkinshaw, who is heavily backed by the Democratic establishment, is a centrist Democrat who has openly attacked Pramilia for being a genuine progressive.

State of New Columbia Advisory Referendum – YES

You may be wondering what the State of New Columbia is, it’s not a current U.S. state, but it is a proposed U.S. state consisting of the current District of Columbia, which is our nation’s capital. While residents of our nation’s capital are patriotic U.S. citizens who pay federal taxes and vote on which presidential and vice-presidential ticket should receive the federal district’s three electoral votes, they don’t have any voting representation in Congress. The only remotely feasible way for the residents of our nation’s capital to get real representation in both houses of Congress would be for our nation’s capital to become a new state, since independence from the United States is completely illogical, retrocession of the federal district to Maryland is something that Maryland politicians won’t support, and the status quo is simply unacceptable. While a YES vote on the statehood referendum would not automatically make our nation’s capital the 51st state to join the Union because of the fact that the referendum is non-binding, it would send a powerful message to Congress, which has the power to make our nation’s capital a state, that the citizens of our nation’s capital want statehood.

California Proposition 61 – YES

A large number of propositions are on the California ballot, one of which is Proposition 61, which, contrary to right-wing attacks from Big Pharma, Republicans, and corporate Democrats, would lower drug prices for many Californians. Specifically, the measure would prohibit drug makers from charging those who have been prescribed medications more than what veterans who get their health care from the VA system pay for their prescriptions. I endorse a YES vote on California Proposition 61.

Maine Question 5 – YES

In Maine, it is not unheard of for statewide candidates to win election with only a plurality of the popular vote, owing to Maine being considerably less politically polarized than the country as a whole. Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, would allow voters to mark first, second, third, etc. preferences on their ballots, and, if one candidate has a majority of first preferences, he or she is the winner, but, if no candidate has a majority of first preferences, the second, third, etc. preferences of voters who voted for candidates that received few first preferences can be used to determine a majority winner. If Question 5 were to receive a majority of YES votes, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial, state senate, and state house elections in Maine would use ranked-choice voting instead of the current plurality voting system. I endorse a YES vote on Maine Question 5.

Nebraska Referendum 426 – RETAIN

Unlike most referendums in the United States, in which voters are asked to vote YES or NO on a ballot measure of some kind, Nebraska’s Referendum 426 asks voters to choose between REPEAL and RETAIN, specifically, regarding a Nebraska state law that repealed the death penalty in Nebraska. I encourage Nebraskans to RETAIN the ban on the death penalty in the Nebraska state jurisdiction, and, thus, I endorse a RETAIN vote on Nebraska Referendum 426. If someone is wrongly convicted of a capital crime, sentenced to death, executed, and it is found out after the execution that the person was wrongly convicted, there is no legal recourse in that situation. If someone is wrongly convicted of a major crime, sentenced to life imprisonment, and then found out that the person was wrongly convicted, the person can have his/her conviction overturned and be released from prison. That’s just one reason why I oppose the death penalty.

42nd Legislative District of North Dakota (State House) – Kylie Oversen

Normally, when I endorse a Democratic candidate for public office, it’s in a contested Democratic primary or a Democratic primary that may be contested. I will make one exception to that rule every two years by endorsing a Democratic candidate that I believe is a truly special person for the general election. For 2016, I endorse Kylie Oversen in her re-election bid for her North Dakota House of Representative seat in the 42nd Legislative District of North Dakota. When it comes to reproductive rights, Kylie has gone above and beyond what is typically expected of a pro-choice elected official by helping women who wish to seek an abortion by serving as an abortion clinic escort:

(Oversen is the person on the right-hand side of the picture)

In addition to her support for women’s rights, Kylie has consistently supported progressive ideas and values on many political issues facing North Dakota.

My two pence about the British elections

In the 2015 United Kingdom elections for seats in the 650-member British House of Commons, which holds nearly all of the governing power at the national level in the UK, were held yesterday. Here’s my two pence (in the UK, the British pound, the national currency, is divided into 100 pence) about what transpired last night across the pond from my home country of the United States.

First-past-the-post elections are ridiculously unfair

If there was ever a¬†textbook example of how first-past-the-post elections can result in wildly disproportional results, the 2015 British elections would be it. The Conservatives, led by right-wing Prime Minister David Cameron, won an outright majority of seats in Parliament with only about 37% of the national popular vote. Another party that benefited greatly from first-past-the-post is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), a left-wing Scottish separatist party. Despite winning less than 5% of the national popular vote, the SNP won all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, or 56 seats, 8.6% of all seats, entirely because they only contested the Scottish seats for obvious reasons. Even though the left-leaning Labour, led by Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband going into last night’s election, collapsed in this election for reasons I’ll explain below, Labour won 232 seats, or not quite 36% of the seats in Parliament, with only slightly over 30% of the national popular vote, thus not collapsing quite as much as their popular vote total would suggest. Three parties that were screwed over by the first-past-the-post system were the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), the left-wing Green Party of England and Wales (Greens), and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), who partnered with the Tories in the previous governing coalition. The UKIP received 12.6% of the national popular vote, the Greens received 3.8% of the total vote, and the Lib Dems received 7.9% of the total vote. Despite that, the UKIP and Greens won a single seat each, and the Lib Dems won eight seats, or 1.2% of all seats. To give you a general idea of how disproportional this is, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a right-wing unionist party in Northern Ireland that contested 16 of the 18 Northern Irish seats, will have the same number of MPs as the Lib Dems despite the Lib Dems getting over 2.2 million votes more than the DUP, and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), a party which contested 15 Northern Irish seats and is similar to, and in an electoral pact with, the DUP, will have the same number of seats as the UKIP and the Greens combined, despite the fact that the UKIP and the Greens combined received over 16% of the total vote and the UUP received less than 0.5% of the total vote.

This is mostly due to three factors: First, in many constituencies, no candidate received a majority of the vote. When that happens in a British parliamentary constituency, the candidate with a plurality of votes is elected to the Commons. Second, the UKIP and the Greens received a significant minority of the popular vote nationwide, but, because their votes were largely spread out over the constituencies they contested, they only won a single seat each because they only got the most votes in a single constituency. Third, the SNP, the Northern Irish parties, and the left-wing Welsh separatist party Plaid Cymru only contested seats in one of the four British constituent countries and received a significant share of the vote in the constituent country they contested seats in.

There are several ways that Britain can make its electoral system more representative of the British populace. One idea would be to maintain first-past-the-post as a core system of election, but, if the first-past-the-post result is not proportional, a variable amount of leveling seats would be added to Parliament, so that parties end up having a number of seats that are proportional to their national popular vote share. How this system would work is, if the first-past the post result for 650 seats is not proportional, a calculation for a 651-seat House of Commons, with all seats not won by an independent candidate being allocated to each political party in proportion to their national vote share, is conducted. Should the 651-seat Commons calculation yield a result in which one or more parties end up with fewer seats than the number of seats they won under first-past-the-post, similar calculations are done for a 652-seat Commons, a 653-seat Commons, a 654-seat Commons, and so on, until each political party has at least as many seats as they won by first-past-the-post, and each political party has a number of seats that is proportional to their national vote share. Another idea would be to implement instant-runoff voting, in which voters are allowed to give multiple preferences for who they want to represent them in the Commons, but maintain constituencies electing a single member to Parliament. Yet another idea would be to implement single non-transferable vote, where voters would have only a single vote as they currently do, but Members of Parliament (MPs) would be elected from multi-member constituencies, with the top n candidates, in which n is the number of seats to be filled in each constituency, winning seats in the Commons. Other ideas involving multi-member constituencies include multi-member instant-runoff voting (basically a combination of instant-runoff voting and multi-member constituencies), single-transferable vote (a preferential system that is used in some multi-member constituency systems around the world), and the party-list system (where voters are given a single vote in a multi-member constituency, and seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in a constituency).

One thing I do like about Britain’s parliamentary elections is that each constituency reports all of its votes at once, and the candidates in each constituency are standing on the same stage as the results are announced. This is vastly different than how American and Canadian election results are announced, in which each polling place usually reports results individually, with media outlets making projections in election night coverage based on the polling place results and final results being officially reported weeks, if not months, after the date of the election, with candidates not being present for the announcement of official results.

Labour’s anti-Scotland rhetoric cost them any chance of forming a government

During the campaign, Labour, which will, once again, be the main opposition party in the Commons, spent most of their campaign railing against Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and Scotland as a whole. This cost Labour a large number of constituencies in Scotland that, prior to yesterday’s elections, were longtime Labour strongholds, and probably helped to give the Greens gain a sizable share of the popular vote that may have helped the Tories win some seats in England. Had Labour ran on increased devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they might have held on to a lot of their seats in Scotland and may have prevented the Tories from getting a majority by themselves. Instead, the Tories have an outright majority in the Commons, and Nicola Sturegon is effectively the voice of the Scottish people in Parliament.

For Labour to go back to Tony Blair-type centrist leadership would likely put Labour in an even worse position politically than they currently are for three reasons: One, they’d gain virtually nothing in Scotland, unless the SNP alienates some voters who supported them last night. Two, they’d give the Greens a even larger base of support among current left-wing Labour supporters who would be alienated by another Blair-type leader at the helm of Labour. Three, they wouldn’t gain enough from the Tories, who benefit heavily due to right-wing media bias from both the public media and the corporate media in the UK, the SNP, and possibly other parties to make up for any losses to the Greens and possibly other parties.

For Labour to at least have a chance at getting back in power, they would need to win back their former Scottish strongholds that went SNP last night by supporting increased devolution to Scotland, and they would need to win over voters they lost to the Greens by adopting and supporting a progressive, isolationist platform.