2013 Minneapolis Sample Ballot (myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us).
by Steve Timmer
Oct 23, 2013, 8:30 AM

Going to bat for RCV

Update: Here’s something you don’t see everyday: a story that is updated before it is published, but I finished it a while ago this morning, and then went to read the newspaper, the kind you can hold in your hands. Still my favorite way to do it.

There is a front page article in the Strib this AM about how RCV is hampering candidates in describing opponents’ positions and contrasting their own with them. Well, duh. Not “duh” on the Strib, but rather on the proponents of RCV.

So voters are mostly left with winks and nods and passive aggression from the candidates. The voters find this mystifying.

Addendum to the Update: Some pundit types have said that RCV will be massively confusing to voters. Nah, they’ll figure out how to vote just fine. They just won’t know who to vote for or why.

– o O o –

After I wrote and published A blinding flash of the obvious, website sidekick Jesse took me aside and said maybe I’d been a little hard on ranked choice voting. Not in a scolding way.

Really, though, I think he was scolding. In his friendly Jesse way.

I’m never going to get out of this one, am I?

Jesse is the designer of the website that you’re reading as we speak, or as I write, anyway. Without Jesse, you wouldn’t be reading this, and I would probably be outside raking leaves. So we all owe Jesse a lot.

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, Jesse’s defense of RCV. Here’s what he wrote to me:

I just read your post, Steve. I don’t think you’re wrong, but I don’t think that consequence you pointed out is necessarily a bad thing, or even something unique to RCV. I recall during the 2010 DFL convention, the gubernatorial candidates were practically falling over themselves to show they were the strongest supporter of single payer, in an effort to try to leech John Marty’s supporters once he fell off the ballot. That election was done using the primary system, obviously.

I’m glad for having all those gubernatorial candidates on record saying they support single payer, even if getting it passed was unlikely to happen.

I think the education reform issue is the same kind of thing. All the mayoral candidates _know_ that the city’s schools aren’t within their purview, but they’re trying to say things that show that they know education is an issue that people are concerned about. Call that a cynical attempt to get elected or call it constituent concern awareness, it’s something that politicians have always done in some form or another, and RCV doesn’t really impact that dynamic to as significant a degree as your post indicates.

I still think RCV is a better system than what we had before. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect or doesn’t have flaws the way it’s currently implemented, but I think it offers certain advantages that make it worth refining and expanding.

You can tell right away from the first sentence that Jesse knows how sensitive I am.

Jesse, conventions are dark and evil places, and I wouldn’t hold up a convention by either party as a model of democracy at work. (Remember, the guy who is now the sitting governor was not even permitted to speak at the convention. Bet he gets to next time! Further Update: Tony writes and says, “He did get to the next time, in 2012.” But he wasn’t running for governor, I patiently point out.) That’s partly why they are so much fun. And the 2010 DFL convention you mention had nothing to do, in the end, with either the outcome of the party nomination or the general election. (The “end” meaning primary election day when Mark Dayton beat Margaret Anderson Kelliher.)

Pledging fealty to single-payer health insurance at the convention turned out to be unimportant to enough primary voters to matter.

But comparing a general election to a convention is comparing apples to horse apples, anyway.

Chasing Don Samuels second and third place votes has sucked all the air out of the campaign. Who can remember anything that Hodges or Andrew has said about anything, really, beyond the sweaty scrum over an imaginary rugby ball? I can’t.

Property taxes? City services? Inspections? Crime? Police misconduct? Pretty much absent from the discussion. There was the big press conference for Cop Camera, which is not exactly news, except to candidates for mayor.

I’m concerned about drone strikes in Pakistan, too, but I don’t expect mayoral candidates to campaign on them. Okay, maybe that’s a little out there as an example, but the mayor has as much say over drone strikes as s/he does over the schools. A bully pulpit in both cases, but that’s it.

The issue has become a fatal obsession for the whole campaign.

Later, Jesse wrote how the candidates might have behaved in the absence of RCV:

Or maybe they would have doubled down on their own positions to try to ostracize Samuels and make him look like a fringe candidate.

Exactamundo, Jesse.

I doubt that I’ve changed Jesse’s mind but in A blinding flash of the obvious I still convince myself.

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