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San Francisco, USA

 

Ranked Choice Voting Is Great - the Problem Is the Commentators

I'm disappointed to see another article from Chronicle to decry Ranked-choice voting complicates S.F. mayor's race. What is it so complicated about RCV? It is too complicated for voters? for candidates? or for commentators?

Let set the record straight. RCV is very simple for voters. You put in your ranked choice of number 1, number 2 and number 3 candidates. This is as straight forward as it can be. We often make similar choices in other siutation in life. That's no justified reason to call it complicated.

How the winner is decided may need more explanation. But this should not affect how they vote. A lot of voters may not know the exact detail of US presidential election either or to be able to explain why a candidate who gets the most vote do may necessary wins. Nevertheless this hardly become a issue for voters. It is more a problem for the election campaign for strategizing.

Still I want to bust the myth the RCV is hard to understand. It is simply a tournament. In each round the weakest candidates is eliminated. Whose vote is then assigned to the next ranked candidates if any is left on a ballot. The tournament keep running until a winner with the majority vote is found. Even last year's epic 21 candidates races in district 10 can be followed with a well organized chart. The old run off election system can be understand as a tournament with two rounds at most. With the first round eliminated everyone but the top two candidates.

RCV has greater stake for candidates who need to use perhaps a different strategy. The old way is just to admonish your opponents. Negative campaigns, though despised by voters, are found to be effective. In RCV they have to rely less on admonishing the opponents and to appeal to a large base of voters instead. In many ways, this is one of biggest improvement RCV brings.

The article cites the shocking defeat of Don Perata in Oakland's mayoral race. Don Perata does not understand RCV. That's one thing the article and I agree. I think Don Perata is a sad sad example. It is not because he lost the race, which is fair and square. It is sad because we elect officials precisely to understand and make decision on complex issues that we ordinary citizens do not have enough expertise or diligence. That's the essence of representative democracy. If Don Perata do no understand a simple game like RCV, how can we trust him with big issues like balancing budget, which is infinitely more complex?

The journalists do not help either. Instead of writing about many great improvement under RCV, they often throw doubt on the system. One issue they brought up is the election becomes a more unpredictable system. I agree. I think in many ways this is like saying the stock market is an unpredictable system. This is the nature of having a lot of individuals each making their own choice. The result is going to be unpredictable. When the "leading" candidate Don Perata loses to Jean Quan, it shocks a lot of commentators. Similarly a lot of times stock trend defies the prediction of "expert" analysts. Rather than doubting the market, perhaps we should be more humble in our knowledge and to re-examine how our prediction go wrong instead.

2011.10.23 [] - comments

 

 

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