Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting Evaluated

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Hill provides a review of the use of Ranked Choice Voting in the City of San Franicisco. According to Hill, it has been positively great.
We now have had five elections since 2004 using ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors and other offices, providing some basis for assessing its impact. One significant difference between ranked choice and the old December runoff has been a dramatic increase in voter turnout. By finishing the election in November when voter turnout tends to be highest (because voters are showing up to vote for president or governor), a lot more San Franciscans are having a say in who represents them on the Board of Supervisors.

I find it interesting that the one election in San Francisco where the winner was actually determined by 2nd place votes, ended up electing Ed Jew who has since been booted from the Board of Supervisors for charges ranging from lying about his residence to run for a specific seat to soliciting a bribe. It was an example of identity politics (Jew is Chinese) rather than considered opinion.


Anonymous said...

Does IRV guarantee winners that aren't corrupt? Of course not, and no system will. But note that you have your facts wrong -- Ed Jew in fact was the plurality vote winner. He also was the clear choice among Asian American voters in an Asian American majority district that this year again defeated Ron Dudum.

Also, the fact that plurality winners often win with IRV elections doesn't change the value it's bringing to those races. As a general matter, it's ending the spoiler calculation that can suppress strong votes for outsider candidates. And in San Francisco, big downtown business money lost out in every single hotly contested IRV election. One reason is that with more choices, money means less.

Note that IRV will elect people who don't win pluralities -- it's relatively frequent in Australia, and it happened in the big county executive race in Washington State's Pierce County this year.

Anonymous said...

You have some factual errors in your post. Ed Jew had a plurality of votes after the first pass of IRV. See the election results here. So he would have won without second choices as well. The data shows he also would have won with a December runoff.

The choice of voting system has no impact on whether the candidate that run are corrupt or not. No one knew of Jew's corruption at the time of the election, so the implication that he was elected due to identity politics and RCV in spite of his corruption is misleading.

Again, if the election used plurality voting or a December runoff, the result would have been the same. Scapegoating the voting system is silly and unfounded.

Wes said...

I guess I should have gone one more step in checking the facts. I took one comment about Jew and extrapolated.

However, I was really trying to use the situation to take a slam at identity politics, not necessarily at the voting system. In my opinion, identity politics will always end up giving us Ed Jew or William Jefferson.