Open Letter to Mayor, City Council from Former Mayor: Don’t Adopt Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting

5
2088

BY ANTHONY B. ‘TONY’ SANTOS – Dear Mayor and Honolulu City Council members – It is my understanding that there is a move in Honolulu to introduce IRV/RCV (ranked choice voting). I would suggest the Council not adopt IRV elections as it does not have the results intended. It will not result in a majority victor. There are many problems with ranked choice voting. At one time, I was a supporter of ranked choice voting but no more.

I was born and raised on the Island and still have many relatives on the Island. As someone from Honolulu, I would not want to subject them to instant runoff voting.

RCV has many inherent problems which cannot be remedied. Those who support the idea of RCV misrepresent the system and over simplify the process. Some reasons why the system does not result in its promised result are as follows:

  1. Proponents suggest the system saves money; this is just not true. The introduction of the program itself is quite costly. Not only is the equipment expensive, staff time can be unusually high.   Education costs are needed in each election.  In Oakland, they spent $3.50 per targeted voter in education.
  2. Proponents claim the system produces a 50% plus one majority for the winner; this is just not true. Review the outcome of the District 10 race in San Francisco where the winner received only 24% of the votes cast. 17,808 voters voted that day, and the “winner” received 4,321 votes.  In my recent election for Mayor, here in San Leandro, California, the winner actually received 45.9% of the votes cast after the sixth round of counting.
  3. RCV did not increase voter turnout as the proponent’s claimed would occur.
  4. RCV also produces voter confusion and results in more spoiled ballots than any other type of elections. Older voters and those with a language problem became confused and this leads to a higher number of spoiled ballots.  S study of the SF election data showed a 300% increase of spoiled ballots in lower income minority neighborhoods.  Since the election I have had a number of individuals tell me they do not like ranked choice voting and did not like the idea of ranking candidates. They wanted to vote for only one candidate and not vote anyone but one individual.
  5. And instead of having a more civil campaign, as the RCV salesmen claimed it would, campaigns are just as strident as any other campaign and the campaign in San Leandro, California was the most negative I had ever participated in.  This was true of San Francisco and Oakland as well.
  6. Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots had a much higher percentage of spoiled ballots than those cast at polling places.  This is due to no system available to check for errors before they send the ballots back.  In precinct voting, an optical scanner checks the ballot to see if there are over votes in the RCV election, and allows the voter to correct them.  There were also specially trained Election Workers available to answer questions at precincts
  7. Finally, the election results became very convoluted. No one seemed to know what the outcome was and then when the results were announced, many felt they had not voted at all. Note that many votes become exhausted before they were fully counted and therefore you end up with fewer votes counted then initially cast. In my situation, over 22,464 voters cast ballots and at the end of the sixth round, the final number of votes cast was 20,322. Over 2130 votes ended up spoiled or exhausted. What became of these votes? There has never been an answer from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

In conclusion, ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting is undemocratic and un-American. Before adopting instant runoff voting, it is recommended you review the pros and cons quite carefully and I am sure at the end of your deliberations, you will reject instant runoff or ranked choice voting. If possible, I would appreciate the opportunity to address your council on the subject. I do need a reason to visit the city of my birth and to spend time with my family. I have two cousins who are police officers in Honolulu.

Anthony B. ‘Tony’ Santos is the Former Mayor for the city of San Leandro, California

Advertisements

Comments

comments

5 COMMENTS

    • As a resident of San Leandro, I would respectfully disagree with Mr. Santos opinion about RCV.

      It does appear to have some procedural complications, duly noted by our former Mayor who has served our city well.

      However, he fails to share the great advantages of RCV voting over “first past the post” voting.

      1) It largely eliminates strategic voting and thus enables third party candidates to become viable options. In other words you can vote for the candidate you like the most, even if he is an alien with three heads, without your vote becoming a spoiler to your true principles. Thus a vote for Nader in Florida would not get George Bush elected by pulling Al Gore down.

      2) Politics can be much more civil. You can’t take down all your opponents with negative ads, if you need their voters second/third choices to become elected.

      3) It has the potential to get us past this democrat versus republican thing where only two establishment parties control all the shots. Incumbents such as our former mayor dis-like this probably for this reason. They have to be much more in touch with their constituents to get elected. Witness the vigorous and successful campaign of Jean Quan in Oakland versus the ineffective mass media approach of her opponent, the establishment Don Perata.

      • > 1) It largely eliminates strategic voting and thus enables third party candidates to become viable options.

        Utterly false.

        IRV degenerates into Plurality Voting under strategic conditions.
        http://www.electology.org/irv-plurality

        IRV has maintained two-party domination in every country where it has seen widespread long-term use. The best case study is Australia’s House of Representatives, which has used IRV since 1918. By contrast, most of the 27 or so countries to use ordinary (delayed) Top-Two Runoff have at least three viable parties.

        ScoreVoting.net/TTRvIRVstats.html

        That latter observation is part of a famous observation called Duverger’s Law.
        ScoreVoting.net/DuvTrans.html

        > In other words you can vote for the candidate you like the most, even if he is an alien with three heads, without your vote becoming a spoiler to your true principles.

        Absolutely false.
        http://www.electology.org/spoiler

        > 1) Thus a vote for Nader in Florida would not get George Bush elected by pulling Al Gore down.

        Yes, that is a particular kind of spoiler scenario that IRV would fix. But there are others that it would NOT fix. IRV mitigates spoilers; it does not eliminate them. That does offer a small benefit over plain Plurality voting, but it doesn’t change the fact that voters are strategically “forced” to betray their favorite candidates. I.e. even if the Green is your favorite candidate, you should rank e.g. the Democrat in first place, just to be on the safe side, in case the Green does well enough to be a spoiler. IRV fails the Favorite Betrayal Criterion.

        Incidentally, the Nader scenario would have also been fixed by ordinary delayed Top-Two Runoff, which doesn’t suffer from IRV’s complexity, and problems like not being precinct-summable.

        A much better solution still is called Score Voting, aka Range Voting. Here a Princeton math Ph.D. enumerates its massive benefits over IRV.
        ScoreVoting.net/CFERlet.html

        Here’s a longer essay on the matter, from the personal blog of Nader’s former running mate, Matt Gonzalez.
        asitoughttobe.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/score-voting/

        > 2) Politics can be much more civil. You can’t take down all your opponents with negative ads, if you need their voters second/third choices to become elected.

        No, what you really need is for voters to think those opponents don’t have a chance, so that even if you’re their second favorite, they’ll rank you in first place.

        And this is a theoretical argument. I have not seen any comprehensive study that shows any empirical basis for this claim.

        > 3) It has the potential to get us past this democrat versus republican thing where only two establishment parties control all the shots.

        False. See Australia’s House of Representatives, which typically has ZERO of 564 seats occupied by any party outside of Labor or the NatLibs. In the last election there was a fluke where a SINGLE Green Party candidate won an election in liberal Melbourne (the closest thing AU has to San Francisco).

        > Incumbents such as our former mayor dis-like this probably for this reason. They have to be much more in touch with their constituents to get elected.

        There is just no objective evidence that this is true.

        > Witness the vigorous and successful campaign of Jean Quan in Oakland versus the ineffective mass media approach of her opponent, the establishment Don Perata.

        That is a single data point. More importantly, it doesn’t attest to any benefit of IRV over TTR. Perata and Quan were the two frontrunners. They would have gone to the runoff with TTR. Then presumably Quan would have had just as good, if not a better, chance.

        The real definitive answer to this issue could only be gotten by a comprehensive study of the average campaign expenditures by winners from TTR vs. IRV elections. I have been meaning to compile some, but this would be a substantial undertaking.

        Clay Shentrup
        Director, Secretary
        The Center for Election Science
        San Francisco, CA

  1. […] Apparently, Mayor Cassidy’s victory is attributed to being social both in the Social Media world and in the traditional sense, knocking doors and organizing house parties. All efforts lead by campaignmanager Tim Holmes and wife Mitch, owners of Zocalo Cafe. A third element, according to some, could have been Ranked Choice Voting. It has been said that RCV gives opportunities for less known candidates. Interesting enough, I just found by chance an open letter in the Hawaii Reporter by former Mayor Santos, saying “Don’t Adopt Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting,” click here to read it. […]

  2. First of all, one of the comments states thagt RCV enables third party candidates to becomer vialbe
    options. I know of no example where this is true. RCV skewers the selection process. Who is the best candidate?
    RCV does nothing to address this question.

    The writer also states (IIahhael) that politics becomes more civil. this is utterly untrue. This recent campaign was one of
    the nastiest I was involved. Both Joyce Starociak and Steve Cassidy skewered me. I advise all to review their literature.
    Cassidy out and out lied and refuses to apologize for the inaccuracies he spewed. Read “electologists” response.

    I stand by my position.

    Tony Santos

Comments are closed.