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Memphis City Council members reportedly has been annoyed over Steven J. Muroy's “constant lobbying” to them for immediate runoff voting (IRV). Not that surprising, considering the Save IRV Memphis organizaiton exhorts voting no on extending city council terms to three years instead of keeping them limited to the current two. Apparrently Mulroy had put upon city council members a little too much in his efforts to get them to put rank IRV back on the ballot Nov 6. (The object of his lobbying?) Jamita Swearengen, said in Memphis Daily News, "We are sometimes in public places and they are still lobbying us.”
(10.10.18 BenQQ) This time he plans to stay. Let's say IRV’s a nice guy. He wants to make voting easier, simpler and therefore truer to the voters’ intentions the first time at the polls. By so doing, voters would not have to go vote in subsequent runoff elections. Called “instant runoff voting” (IRV), the voter marks his/her preferences numerically starting with “1,” then “2” and so on. Also called “ranked choice voting” (RCV), this voting system is promoted as more democratic and a one stop shop to boot. You can read the referenda as they will appear on the ballot further down. But toward the simplest breakdown possible here's what your vote means in somewhat Orwellian terms:
Voting No Means Yes
Save IRV Memphis wants you to vote NO on all 3 referenda.
Voting NO means:
1) Yes for current term limits of 2 terms. In other words, no to 3 terms.
2) Yes for ranked choice voting in city elections. No to one person one vote.
3) Yes for keeping the current ranked choice provision for runoffs in the city charter for single member city council districts. No to taking the ranked choice voting provision out of the city charter.
Voting Yes Means No
Yes 2 Repeal and the city council wants you to vote yes on all 3 referenda.
Voting YES means:
1) No to keeping city council term limits to 2 terms. In other words, yes to 3 terms.
2) No to ranked choice voting in city elections. In other words, one person one vote.
3) No to keeping in the city charter ranked choice voting for single member city council races where no member gets a majority vote. In other words, it takes RCV out of the city charter.
Memphians voted for ranked choice voting in 2008 by 71%.
However, the city council wants you to vote YES on those referenda, hoping this time people will vote differently on RCV as well as extend current term limits. Most of the city council lose if voters reassert their 2008 RCV vote and choose no on all three referendum questions (verbatim below).
The Campaigns Now
Both groups point to the experiences of ranked choice voting type systems in different American cities. Check out the two competing videos in the body of this piece. There are many additional video and media links below.
Save IRV Memphis doesn't have site video to explain RCV and relies on verbal persuasion.
Save IRV Responds with these videos 8.12.18 10:46am updated 5:13pm :
So we found one from the UK that more or less explains RCV as "alternative voting." This not an IRV video or recommendation:
IRV is complicated until you get it, which is not hard. What's hard is trying to make
sense of the city council referenda. Even Rep. Steve Cohen (D) called them "misleading" in a Save IRV Memphis campaign card. (We wondered if he, as well as the other politicians not affected by this vote, would also be supportive of the same on their offices?) We did not find the full verbatim referenda on their web site. If they are not on the site dedicated to getting voter support, one wonders: why not?
Question 1: Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide that no person shall be eligible to hold or to be elected to the office of Mayor or City Council if any such person has served at any time more than three (3) consecutive four- year terms, except that service by persons elected or appointed to fill an unexpired four-year term shall not be counted as a full four- year term?
How IRV presents this question: "Expand the current term limit of two consecutive terms of office for the mayor and council members to three consecutive terms of office effective immediately."
Question 2: Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to repeal Instant Runoff Voting and to restore the election procedure existing prior to the 2008 Amendment for all city offices and expressly retaining the 1991 federal ruling for persons elected to the Memphis City Council single-districts?
How IRV presents this question: "Repeal any use of instant-runoff or ranked-choice voting in city elections."
Question 3: Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide that in any municipal election held as required by law, the candidate receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared the winner, thereby eliminating run-off elections?
How IRV presents this question: "Eliminate the runoff provision required in the city charter currently for all single-member district city council races in which no candidate gets a majority of the votes cast."
Now, Yes2Appleal.org has this video:
Yes2repeal says IRV is a solution looking for a problem. Everything works just fine.
At a Save IRV Memphis campaign meeting last Monday an attendee stood firm in favor of the one-person-one-vote ballot (as I did when reading the campaign card I had received). She, a retired teacher, firmly rejected tampering with traditional balloting. She said the reasons for supporting IRV were not good enough. A “one step and done” process, even though attached with time saving convenience and more choices on a single ballot, just didn’t cut it (though it did for 3 defeated city council candidates attending the meeting).
Yes 2 Repeal says IRV dooms itself with its confusion and complex “algorhythms” (an intimidating mathism if ever there was one) to average voters. Their message: better stick with the old system so you don’t get confused. The Yes 2 Repeal people invoke the local NAACP, who according to the Yes web site, originally endorsed IRV but then rescinded. (See their competing stats in “confusion” below.)
The two campaigns have mounted a slew of opposite claims over traditionally contentious issues. While I recommend closely reading both of their web sites, let's do a short check list here. What's interesting is that you'll see different the different voting solutions for the same problems. Sites: saveirvmemphis.com and yes2repeal.org.
SaveIRV: costs go down over time as people get used to RCV and avoid the expense of runoff elections. “None of the cities using IRV spent more on start-up/voter education costs than they would have if they’d had to run two elections.”
Yes2Repeal: Cities spend too much money on “how to do a IRV vote” or “voter education.”
Save IRV: Suppression occurs due to high dropoff of runoff voters especially in the black communities.
Yes 2 Repeal: IRV suppresses black votes because it is too complex and therefore discriminatory. NAACP members compared it to the “dreaded poll tax.” Yes 2 Repeal even shows a Louisiana literacy test for voting next to ranked choice ballot, inherently suggesting similar complexity if not motivations (See picture below. Literacy test on left, IRV ballot on right).
Interestingly, Yes 2 Appeal makes an indirect stab at discrediting IRV endorsement by Barack Obama. Yes 2 Repeal points to IRV Minnesota's reported fine, as they show it on their site, for apparently falsely claimimg Obama and others endorsed IRV in St. Paul.
Save IRV: sites surveys where between 85%-99% of voters in 7 RCV cities found the ballot “simple” to “very simple” with over 99% of voters in 24 elections casting a valid ballot.
Yes 2 Repeal: IRV “ significantly increases errors on ballots and spoiled ballots. Yes 2 Repeal connects the “voting gap that favors white voters and the affluent.” It further brings up civil rights and claims poor blacks would become confused, thus resulting in a higher percentage of “spoiled ballots.”
Successes and Failures
Save IRV: We found no list of other cities using IRV on the site, but an IRV produced slide show showed about two dozen.
Yes 2 Repeal: shows links to 6 cities where IRV failed with resolutions to repeal. Further, the site shows a video (above) depicting voting results among 7 candidates where the “winner” can be a “loser.” The results show the person with the least votes after RCV counting wins the election. IRV refutes this as a myth that is “simply untrue.”
Spoiled Ballots and Exhausted Ballots
Spoiled ballots are those that are mismarked, errored, deliberately drawn upon, etc.
Exhausted ballots are those that show only rankings on candidates who don't have a chance of winning (IRV's def.).
Save IRV: does not mention spoiled ballots but does say, “By a more than 6-1 margin, more voters will have their votes counted in the 2nd and 3rd rounds than in the regular runoffs.”
Yes 2 Repeal: shows the spoiled ballots of 2 cities who voted under IRV and does not mention exhausted ballots.
Then there’s the incumbent issue that came up as a side talking subject at the Save IRV meeting. One former unsuccessful candidate told me incumbents have an unfair advantage in elections because they always have a bigger budget to fund runoff campaigns. However, new candidates in runoffs, she said, are often strapped for more campaign funds. That’s why incumbents keep getting elected over and over. However, with IRV, those incumbent candidates have to work harder in instant runoffs to keep their elected position, she said.
All that said...
Instant referendum voting and ranked choice voting require you to think about voting differently than than the sacrosanct one person one vote. But the first voting system, if you can call it that, was used in the first presidential election in 1789. The Electoral College gave state electors one vote each equal to the number of its senators and representatives. These electors then voted for the presidential candidate who got the most votes in their states.
We still use this first voting system today. Why? Bluntly put, to protect from the dictatorship of the elected democratic majority. It has worked especially for minorities--unless you ask the unusually spiteful losing party in the last election who now want to change the constitution to suit their demographics. Just ask Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who called--and is not the first--for the abandonment of the college. That would mean, in today's political map, we, the great unwashed Trump voters in the middle states, need not be included in Ms. Cortez’s voting system. She and her other Democratic colleagues will be the experts, thank you.
The Electoral College and ranked choice voting. That's what we have today nationally for the former and in set places for the latter. As long as they pass constitutional muster--and not intrusive politicians or bureaucrats--we can develop any voting system people think is better. (One person said this was "too smart" for Memphis but we ignore.)
Memphians already had voted to try out a new voting system. In brazen response city council members blocked it with their own self interest for 9 years. Did they think no one would notice? Here is a loose storybook history no so fantasitic:
IRV from the Animal Kingdom
democracy is one person one vote
Yes to fairer votes .org
yes but great satire
the original chewbaca defense
politicians as usual
I’m saying yes
what cats favor AV?
yes for AV how the count works
lets say you lived in UK and you wanted to “block”
BNP, the British Naitional Party…
one vote doesn’t work
Canada…prepresentation vs proportionality
british Columbia…3 systems but shows the complexity of
British Columbia options in voting
this is alternative voting
how it works