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December 29, 2009

Burlington Residents Seek Repeal of Instant Runoff Voting

IRVphoto A group of Burlington residents have garnered the necessary 1654 signatures to put a simple question to voters: Should Burlington revert to its old way of electing its mayor?

Instant runoff voting (IRV) — which allows voters to rank candidates as a way to choose a winner on election day rather than holding costly separate runoff elections – was perhaps the most controversial element in a five-way race for mayor in March.

If there is no majority winner (50-plus percent) after all first-place ballots are counted, candidates who statistically can't win are eliminated, and their second-place votes are distributed among the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until someone with 50 percent of the vote emerges.

If IRV is repealed, then the next election for mayor will revert to the old system: A simple plurality (40 percent) wins the day. If no one has 40 percent on election night, then a special runoff between the top two candidates will be held 30 days later.

A multipartisan group calling itself "One Person, One Vote" held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in a City Hall conference room to declare that IRV was a convoluted system that frustrated voters and may have depressed voter turnout.

"I was an early supporter of IRV," said Democrat John Ewing. "But I've been disappointed in the way it has worked. I think it has proven itself to be a disservice to the voters. I think it's extremely convoluted and that voters don't understand how it works."

If that's true, it would be a slight turnaround from a poll conducted in 2006 — the first year IRV was used in Burlington to elect a mayor.

In 2006, a University of Vermont professor and his students polled Burlingtonians about their understanding of IRV and found that 63.4 percent of voters said they liked IRV, while 17.9 percent disliked it and 18.7 percent did not have an opinion or didn’t know whether they liked it. Those with a postgraduate degree liked IRV more than those with a high school diploma or less. Only about 8 percent of those polled found the system confusing.

Several of the IRV opponents, including Ewing, backed Republican Kurt Wright for mayor this past March. Another Wright supporter, David Hartnett, also collected signatures for the group and said this was more than a sour grapes campaign.

"This has been a grassroots effort," noted Hartnett. "We waited to bring in the signatures because we didn't want this to be about Kurt Wright losing after being ahead, or Andy Montroll who had more first and second place votes and didn't win. We wanted this to be about IRV. In fact, I don't think a lot of people understood what they were voting for in 2005 when they approved it."

Hartnett and other IRV opponents said after two mayoral elections it was time for voters to weigh in — again — on whether the voting system was working.

"There was a lot on the ballot that year, and IRV got kinda lost in the shuffle," said Hartnett. "In the next two and a half months there will be time to focus on IRV."

Hartnett and others said that, while the lion's share of early grassroots energy this year emanated from the New North End, petitioners come from throughout the city and represent all major political parties in the Queen City.

Also joining Hartnett and Ewing at Tuesday's event was Sam Osborne, a prominent Burlington Democrat, Chuck Saleen, a New North End Democrat, and Linda Chagnon of the New North End. Chagnon alone netted roughly 500 signatures.

Ewing and other IRV opponents said the system has done nothing to increase voter turnout. In fact, only 27 percent of registered voters turned up at the polls in March 2009, which seems pretty dismal.

That can be compared with a voter turnout of slightly more than 30 percent in 2006. That said, 2009 had a better turnout than 2003 (22.3 percent) and 2001 (18.7 percent).

In March 2009, there were five candidates on the ballot, four of whom ran strong campaigns: Progressive Bob Kiss (incumbent), then-Councilor Andy Montroll (Democrat), James Simpson (Green Party), Independent Dan Smith and then-Councilor Wright.

Here's how the vote broke down on election night: In the first round, Wright had 2951 (33%) votes to Kiss' 2585 (29%) and Montroll's 2063 (23%).

In the second round, Wright had 3294 (37%) to Kiss' 2981 (34%) and Montroll's 2554 (29%) after Smith's and Simpson's votes were eliminated and their voters' second preferences divvied up among the other three candidates.

In the final round, Montroll was eliminated and 1332 of his preferences went to Kiss, while 767 went to Wright. That put Kiss on top with 4313 (51.5%) and Wright with 4061 (48%).

Hence the inspiration behind this T-shirt, which offered a new definition of IRV: “Keep Counting ’Til Bob Wins.”

In 2006, it also took Kiss more than one round to win a majority of votes, but he was in the lead in both rounds against his closest challenger — Democrat Hinda Miller.

This year, however, the margin was close enough that Wright asked for a recount. Wright called off the hand recount as soon as it was clear that it was not differing from the election night results.

Here was my take in a "Fair Game" column shortly after the election, after some fumed that Wright had the election stolen from him. I mean, really, who would have thought a left-leaning, liberal city would pass on putting a Republican in the mayor's office? Incroyable!

IRV proponents noted at the time, and will undoubtedly note again in the coming months, that IRV worked as it was designed.

They said the ranking system saves time and money by allowing voters to rank their candidates and take care of the runoff the same night. Also, fewer voters actually take part in separate runoff elections.

But that doesn't stop folks from claiming hell froze over last March. Vermont GOP Chairman Rob Roper called Kiss' reelection a "travesty" and claimed the "will of the voters was circumvented."

Was it true? I decided to look more closely at how the votes broke down, and here's what I found:

  • • Two-thirds of the voters didn’t have the smarts to put Wright down as their first pick.

  • • Five out of seven wards ranked Wright behind Kiss and Montroll.

  • • Kiss was in the lead, claiming the most first-place votes in only six of seven wards, before Ward 7 voters pushed Wright out front.

  • • Wright had 33 percent after the first round, 37 percent after round two. To Wright supporters, that seemed close enough to 50 percent, right?
  • As I noted in my column at the time, I'm not sure how anyone's "will" was circumvented when you look more closely.
  • People may not be happy that Kiss was reelected, and certainly at today's press conference the word "leadership" was tossed around a lot — mostly in a negative sense. As in, Kiss offers none.

    Look, it's no secret that Wards 4 and 7 are more conservative than other parts of the city and that they were going to go overwhelmingly for Wright. And they did.

    The question for March 2010, however, is how much of the anti-IRV effort is truly a referendum on IRV, and how much is a referendum on Mayor Kiss. His term isn't up, technically, until 2012, but a spate of leadership crises related to Burlington Telecom, the Moran Plant redevelopment and the loss of General Dynamics practically put Kiss in the lame duck category. And to think it's only the guy's first year of a three-year term.

    Sounds like IRV could soon find itself another fossilized relic that anthropologists hundreds of years from now use to define what could be dubbed Burlington's Progressazoic Era.

    Listen Webber (or faux-Webber, whichever you are),

    Your newsflash seems to assume that *you* know what *we* want. We don't like having to sacrifice our vote for our favorite candidate just so we can avoid (or try to) electing the candidate we least prefer. That's why *we* (not you, but the majority of Burlington voters) adopted IRV in the first place in 2005.

    But what *some* of us (not me, I knew in 2005 that IRV was not the same as Condorcet) didn't realize was that IRV simply transferred that same problem to avoid to a different group of people.

    It unfair (in 2000) to require Nader voters to compromise their support for their favorite candidate (and switching their vote to Gore) just so they can avoid contributing to the election of their least desirable candidate (you know, that Abomination we had for 8 years). Or, to make it local, it's unfair for Prog voters to be forced to vote for the Dem just to avoid electing the GOP.

    But likewise, it's unfair to require GOP voters to vote for the Dem just to avoid electing the Prog, and that's what IRV did in Burlington in 2009. 1513 Wright voters that picked Montroll as their second choice ain't happy that their primary vote for Wright actually caused Kiss to win.

    So IRV is the Progs sticking it to the GOPs (for their own selfish benefit) and Plurality is the GOPs sticking it to the Progs and the Dems (for their own selfish benefit since it's the only way you could possibly elect your guy in this liberal town). Your ethics are so consistent. It's okay (with you) to stick it to the Progs and Dems, but you don't like it when the Progs stick it to you. How convenient.

    How about a better way of politics. Instead of everyone trying to stick it to their opponents, why don't we just try to be fair?

    And BTW, Plurality Rule (which is Minority Rule unless the Plurality is more the 50%) has caused a few voter uprisings like in, oh..., Burlington Vermont in 2005. Also Cambridge MA, San Francisco CA, Minneapolis MN, St. Paul MN, some place in North Carolina that I don't remember...

    What happened is that voters in Burlington anticipated the potential for a nasty outcome that some of these other towns had, a significantly unpopular and minority candidate but with a solid minority base actually *winning* office, not because the majority didn't bother to come to the polls on Election Day, but because the majority was split between the more fringe candidate and the more centrist candidate in their camp. After a few bad experiences with that, then voters begin to learn to stick with the two parties (so as not to waste their vote with their Ralph Nader or Ross Perot) and third parties never become viable. With no third parties, then our only choice is with Dumb and Dumber. Nice choice.

    They anticipated the problem, but IRV was (or is) less than the optimal solution. But returning to the problem is not a solution to the problem either.

    I want to get back to turn out. To me A little more than 22% does not seem that the voters triping over each other to get to back to the polls. The other thing that the IRV supporters state is that it will stop the negitve campaigning well that is wrong ask Hinda Miller and Andy Monroll. One thing that concerns me is as a former ward clerk is that the ward clerks have to do the tabuation at our wards. Not with IRV. To me this is fishy and other non-IRV campaign the ward clerks do the work at the polls which is required. THEY DO THIS AT CITY HALL AND THIS IS WRONG. i DO NOT TRUST THIS SYSTEM. You have a some one like pacy and leopold gruby paws on our elections.

    oh, 22% turnout is dismal. but turnout in the mayoral race is *consistently* better since 2005 than before. there is no evidence whatsoever that IRV has reduced voter turnout in *any* way. the evidence is mostly neutral (voter turnout hasn't increased very much) or actually points the other way.

    but the point is that we *know* (and if you do not admit to this, i say that you are not being honest about it) that turnout to a delayed runoff is *far* *far* less than to the initial election. we can expect somewhere around *half* of the voters who came to the initial election (the sad 22% figure) to turn out for the runoff. so the mayor gets decided with an 11% voter turnout? is that reflective of the will of the people? *that* is what you are advocating for Loyal (or electing the mayor with 60% or the electorate voting against him or her).

    both are bad, very bad. anyone claiming that this is not a problem in need of fixing is either dumb (not understanding the issues) or is secretly hoping to use this pathology for selfish political interest to get their guy elected even when the majority of Burlington voters (that come to the polls on Election Day) do not what that person elected.

    IRV in Burlington did okay in 2006 and it screwed up in 2009. there is no doubt about it. but if you want to replace that with 40% Plurality Rule (or a delayed runoff with 11% of the electorate showing up), you are either being dumb about it (and acting against your own interests for democratic representation) or being cynical about it (and trying to game the system to get your minority-supported candidate elected to office).

    it would be nice if the two sides, rather than digging in their heels, considered a 3rd way that would have avoided the pathologies that happened in 2009 and avoids the pathologies that are well known about Plurality Rule. Plurality Rule favors the two-party system. the problem with the two-party system is that sometimes both major parties devolve into Dumb and Dumber. casting a single vote for a fresh 3rd-party voice (without being able to cover your butt with a 2nd-choice for Dumb) risks electing Dumber. so, with Plurality Rule, people end up just voting for Dumb to avoid electing Dumber.

    "it would be nice if the two sides, rather than digging in their heels, considered a 3rd way"

    I'll risk redundancy here because you seem to be a big fan of it - if this is such a big deal to you then do something about it. Otherwise you're bitching about the weather.

    like you, Jimmy, or anyone else, i do what i can. i can't do anymore than i can. (as long as we're into redundancies.)

    So either it's impossible to get Condorcet on the ballot, in which case there's no point in talking about it; or it's possible but you don't want to expend the effort.

    In IRV, real voters cast real ballots, which at each step are really counted and have real consequences for who is elected and who is defeated. That's the definition of a real election.

    Someone here says that in a "REAL" election the candidates can gain or lose support -- which is true, and important. But sooner or later, there has to be a decision. You can't just keep voting on the same people over and over until the Second Coming or the heat death of the universe, whichever comes first. I'm sure you recognize that, which is why you're only talking up the merits of a second election rather than, say, holding nine elections whenever there are ten candidates, dropping one candidate each time. But really, if more time for "dynamics" to help us make up our mind (as if people actually WANT to listen to more political campaigning), you should just demand the vote be held immediately before the winner is to take office. Then you'll have all the dynamics possible.

    BTW, I'm a Condorcet supporter. The fact that IRV sometimes fails to elect the Condorcet winner isn't a reason to revert to the far less Condorcet-friendly Plurality method.

    "The fact that IRV sometimes fails to elect the Condorcet winner isn't a reason to revert to the far less Condorcet-friendly Plurality method."

    I am completely in agreement with that, Aaron.

    My only chide to the hard-core IRV supporters (like and other IRV happy talkers who continue to repeat the canard that it was a "resounding success" in 2009 and that "there was no talk of spoliers") is not to be politically greedy.

    just like economic greed precedes a fall (or meltdown, like in 2008), the Progs and hardcore IRV proponents should be careful to not grab too much. they must recognize that IRV simply transferred the burden of having to think strategically about voting from themselves (they don't have to sacrifice their vote for their "fringe" 3rd-party candidate just to avoid electing the GOP candidate they like least) to the other "fringe", the GOP Prog-haters. the GOP Prog-haters found out that by sincerely supporting their favorite candidate (Wright), they kept their less-disliked fallback candidate (Montroll) out of the IRV final round which caused their most-disliked candidate to win the election.

    if IRV survives the repeal vote, what will these GOP Prog-haters be thinking at the polls in 2012? "Gee, last time I voted for my favorite, I actually helped elect my least favorite. Guess I'll have to compromise and vote for the Dem, just to keep the Prog from winning." that is exactly the voting strategy we were trying to avoid by adopting IRV in the first place and what we did was transfer the burden of needing to consider that strategy from the liberals in Burlington to the conservatives. that's a legitimate reason for them to be pissed.

    it is *not* a legitimate reason for them to be pissed that their candidate (Wright) wasn't elected. that is a bogus and selfish reason to oppose election reform. do they wonder why a majority of residents in this liberal town do not want their GOP candidate to be elected? do they consider themselves entitled to have their guy elected even though a majority of the electorate is opposed to their guy (in favor of any of two other specific candidates, in fact)? both Bob Kiss *and* Andy Montroll are preferred by Burlington voters over Kurt Wright. these mouth-frothing anti-IRV reactionaries don't want to admit that Kurt Wright came in third. he is the *third* most preferred candidate for mayor in 2009, and the fig leaf of plurality doesn't hide that fact.

    the problem is, the question that IRV asked voters about who they preferred between Bob Kiss and Kurt Wright (and the answer was Bob Kiss which is why he is now re-elected by IRV rules) was not asked (by IRV tabulation) of the voters about Bob Kiss and Andy Montroll. again, we know that if Andy Montroll had been in the final round with *any* other candidate, be it Kiss or Wright or Smith or Homer, Andy would have beaten that other candidate. that is why and how IRV failed the cause of democracy last March.

    @ Webber

    "Yeah, most votes wins. Period. End of story. It's worked that way without revolution for some 200 years in this country. Your implication that it's bad for democracy is demonstrably silly. If the most-votes-wins rule is bad for democracy, howcome it's been the accepted method of electing leaders for 200 years and hasn't produced any voter uprisings? Not one."

    So your argument is that plurality winners haven't made people angry enough for a "revolution" or "uprising" -- the lowest standard imaginable, and you're still completely wrong. It produced a little voter uprising called the Civil War. The bloodiest, most destructive war in American history.

    But, you might say, we like Abraham Lincoln, we're glad he won, we think the South was wrong to have slaves in the first place and was wrong to leave the Union, and, while we don't like war for its own sake, if war was the only way to end slavery, it was good that the war came. And I'd agree with you. But that's not what you said. You said, "not one". You've said it over and over, in the most abject pig-ignorance.

    Do you see any slaves around these days? Do you see anything in domestic politics that would justify a minority forcing its will on the majority, by violence if necessary? Of course not. Therefore, the moral rights and wrongs of the 1860s are beside the point: what is relevant for us, in this discussion, is that the formal system failed catastrophically. The fact that it hasn't been subjected to any equivalent stresses since then is pure luck.

    "Newsflash for you elitist social-engineering busybodies: the voters LIKE the plurality/runoff system. Stop trying to tell us what's "better" for us. Stop trying to tell us we'd be happier doing it your "smart" way."

    Seems like you're the one telling the voters they're wrong, because they voted for IRV in the first place.

    @ Owen Mulligan

    "I was disenfranchised from that election because I did not want to rank candidates or strategize over the possible outcome. I just wanted to vote for one candidate and that's it."

    So you decide to vote as if there were a different election system, and expect everyone else to abandon duly enacted law just to accommodate you, and when they don't, you think you're disenfranchised? Yes, stupid you.

    i dunno about Jimmy, but what Webber and his ilk want is for their guy to win. no matter what the electorate wants, they want to win. no matter what the will of the voters are, they think they should win. these Bushie-GOPers feel entitled to lead. they are the leadership class (like the Brahmin) and whether they are the majority or the minority at any place or time, they think that they should be the leaders and set the direction of the development of society. so they want election rules that favor themselves, even against the will of the rest of society.

    the Burlinton IRV election screwed up in 2009. but that fig leaf does not cover their pudenda. that fig leaf says that Andy Montroll was the preferred choice for mayor of the majority of Burlington in 2009. in 2006, it said that Bob Kiss was the preference over either Hinda Miller or Kevin Curley (or Loyal, who is hangin around these parts or Mr. Cowman). that does not cover their nakedness that says that, of the three, their guy was *least* preferred by Burlington voters. it is a matter of public record that Kurt Wright is less preferred by the majority of Burlington voters than either Bob Kiss or Andy Montroll. it is also a matter of the same public record that Andy Montroll is (or *was* on March 3, 2009) preferred over Bob Kiss by the majority of Burlington voters.

    why should Kurt Wright be mayor of Burlington when he is less preferred by the electorate to either Bob Kiss or Andy Montroll? the final IRV round confirmed that Wright is less preferred than Kiss, and again, the mistake that IRV made is that it didn't consider whether or not Kiss is preferred over Montroll (or whether Wright is preferred over Montroll).

    they can preach their "one person, one vote" canard. it's a lie. but they hope that if they repeat it often enough that their canard will somehow evolve in status from "falsehood" to "plausible notion" to "gospel truth". but it won't. lipstick won't change that pig. every time they say "one person, one vote" we shall remind everyone that what they're really advocating is Minority Rule. they want Minority Rule because they are the minority political group in Burlington and the only way they get to lead (unless Burlington becomes more conservative and/or Burlington Republicans become more moderate to become more attractive to moderate Dems and Progs) is to have election rules that can possibly elect their minority candidate.

    we see through that, and anyone who can't is either "duh" (because they believe the canard and are acting against their own interest for representative democracy) or they are precisely those minority-party voters who cynically wish to re-stack the deck in their favor.

    Armitage: your analogy of the Civil War to a municipal election is so ridiculous it's beyond laughable. Get a grip.

    Perfesser Hyphenation: I am not a Bushie and I don't care who wins the plurality/runoff election. Kiss, Montroll, Wright. I have my preferred candidate, but I don't care who wins and I'll accept the pluraility winner. Because I'm a small d democrat and a populist and a realist. You IRV and Condorcet advocates are intermeddling, elitist, social engineers.

    "intermeddling, elitist, social engineer[ing]" means having elections that do not thwart the will of the majority of the electorate? I guess you could say the same for them damn intermeddling, elitist, social engineering, abolitionists. they just don't know when to leave well enough alone.

    see no hyphens!

    r b-j


    The only appropriate way to pick a mayor is for me to pick one. Since that method has exactly the same chance of being enacted as Condorcet, I demand equal time - prepare yourselves for a multi-day, multi-thousand-word tirade supporting my position and calling the rest of you a bunch of idiots.

    Jimmy, in a traditional election with a runoff, does that mean that if the candidate you picked is not in the runoff that you don't vote?

    You don't understand. The winning candidate will receive 100% of the vote, because there will be only one vote, mine.

    Prepare for hours of condescending lecturing that will convince no one and doesn't matter anyway because my method isn't on the ballot.

    Robert Bristow-Johnson;

    Well, um... I'm a Republican.

    We agree on election methods. Let's advocate it on its merits, which are considerable. Once you start throwing in partisan attacks on the other side, members of that party (who, in case you haven't noticed, are again becoming the larger of the two) are going to suspect you, with some reason, of putting one over on them. Ultimately that's unjustified, but you're not helping.


    You were the one who introduced the topic by claiming we have to keep plurality (or plurality plus runoff) because it hasn't caused any revolutions or uprisings. Which is wrong, as anyone who knows American history is aware of.

    Now you're retreating to the fact that it's a municipal election. So what's the argument here? That it doesn't matter if you use a bad method because it's just a city? But you're also saying that IRV is a bad method and plurality plus runoff is a good one, and therefore you should use plurality. Which is it?

    A small d democrat would favor letting the majority govern, if they can. A populist would be against electing a candidate who a majority would rather see lose to any other plausible candidate. A realist would prefer systems that work reliably, not systems that break on a regular basis.


    Go ahead. Don't just threaten the hours of lecturing, lay it on us. Cause I don't think you've actually got any kind of argument at all. Certainly none that a democrat would bother with.

    no Jimmy, i think you make my point perfectly.

    we need a method that is fair for us collectively, not a method that is fair to the Progs/Liberals (at the expense of the GOP Prog-haters) or one that is fair to the GOP Prog-haters (at the expense of the Prog/Dem/Liberals).

    Robert - then do something about it. I want enough money in my kid's 529 plan to pay for college but I don't spend all day online telling people that, I go out and try to get it.

    Aaron - I was making a joke. I'm astounded that anyone would miss that.

    just another promotional plug (until i can find some place to host this), i have a paper written last March titled"

    "The Failure of Instant Run-off Voting to accomplish the very purposes for which it was adopted:
    An object lesson in Burlington Vermont"

    it outlines 4 principles for why IRV was adopted and shows how it failed the first two principles in 2009. it actually failed principle 3 by penalizing the GOP Prog-haters for sincerely voting for their favorite candidate (they were "rewarded" in that their votes actually elected the candidate they least preferred) and that calls on voters to vote strategically.

    email me at [email protected] and i'll send you a copy.


    Yes, I knew. It's a joke that doesn't work, because there's no case for letting you have the only vote, but there's a strong case for Condorcet.

    Candidate A: 41%

    Candidate B: 39%

    Candidates C-F: 5% each

    Candidate A wins.

    Tough shit. Suck it up. B-F LOST. Now go away.

    "there's no case for letting you have the only vote, but there's a strong case for Condorcet."

    Yet strangely enough, both of our methods have exactly the same chance of being enacted.

    Get it?

    Candidate A: 41%
    Candidate B: 39%
    Candidates C-F: 5% each
    Candidate A wins.
    Tough shit. Suck it up. B-F LOST.

    not if Candidates C-F are a lot more like Candidate B than A in the minds of the electorate. why should they put up with Mayor A when 59% think he's a piece of crap?

    "Now go away."

    "I'll be back."

    "Well, um... I'm a Republican.

    We agree on election methods. Let's advocate it on its merits, which are considerable. Once you start throwing in partisan attacks on the other side, members of that party (who, in case you haven't noticed, are again becoming the larger of the two) are going to suspect you, with some reason, of putting one over on them. Ultimately that's unjustified, but you're not helping."

    my apologies. i got a little punchy with the "Perfesser" stuff.

    actually, i think the majority of Wright voters (those that like Bob Kiss the least) have a legit gripe about what IRV did to them in 2009. but that Wright wasn't elected is not a legit gripe. there is no justifiable reason for Wright to have been elected, even with an initial plurality. in 2006, Bob Kiss was the Plurality winner, the IRV winner, *and* the Condorcet winner. but if IRV (or Condorcet) always agreed with the plurality winner, there wouldn't be any reason for adopting it over plurality. but i voted for IRV in 2005 because i hoped it would normally elect the Condorcet winner (and it did in 2006), but last year we had an interesting scenario: a *very* strong centrist candidate whose base is slightly smaller than either the bases for the two wings, the Progs and GOP. so then it boils down to which side the centrists would be on and it shouldn't suprize anyone that the centrists in Burlington are more on the side with the Progs than the GOP. but that still leaves unanswered who of the left coalition wins. IRV favors the largest subgroup (Progs vs. Dems) in the largest group (liberals vs. conservatives in Burlington) whereas Condorcet favors the centrist (the Right, even though they lost, still have some pull on the outcome). that's the political angle.

    but it's no reason to use Condorcet as an election method. the reason to elect the Condorcet winner is that this is the candidate favored by the voters over any other candidate when the voters are asked to choose between the two. that is the only reason and that is good enough.

    "why should they put up with Mayor A when 59% think he's a piece of crap?"

    Because she won the election. Duh. Because she got more votes than the other candidates. Because your candidate didn't get enough votes. Because the other 59% didn't get together and put up a winner.

    In three years you and all of your friends can get together and vote the "piece of crap" out of office.

    Kind of simple, huh?

    Real elections.

    sure, it's simple when there are only two choices. "most votes" is the same as "majority". there can even be times when there are 3 choices and "most votes" = majority (a popular candidate who gets 51% while the two others divide the remaining 49%).

    but you're advocating Minority Rule. you're advocating that the 59% majority must vote strategically to "get together and put up a winner". when IRV advocates claim that IRV creates and incentive to vote strategically, they may be correct (by the 2009 IRV punishing the GOP Prog-haters by turning their 1st-choice vote for Wright into a vote that elected Kiss over Montroll), but they conveniently ignore the fact that "First Past the Post" or FPTP (this is what other pointy-headed election method geeks call the traditional plurality system) rewards strategic voting for an even larger group of people, the Majority.

    so the anti-IRVers cry that IRV causes (or encourages) strategic voting, but fail to mention that it imposes that incentive to vote strategically upon a minority of voters. they haven't come to terms with fact that FPTP is *widely* known, for centuries, to cause strategic voting upon the *majority* of voters when this majority of voters together support either one of two candidates. these anti-IRVers hope to split that vote, because it's the only way to get their *minority* supported candidate elected.

    so again, why should the 59% majority put up with Mayor A if they think he's a piece of crap? why should the *majority* have to choose (strategically) between their favorite and their second favorite just to prevent the widely disliked minority candidate from being elected? you haven't been able to answer that question at all without circular argument.

    it is *your* candidate A that didn't get enough votes (41%). your candidate needs to get to 50% + 1 vote to be the clear choice of the electorate and she didn't get it. you say, without justification, that "she won the election." no, she didn't. one wins the election by the rules.

    e.g., the reason that it is known that W stole the election in 2000 is *not* because he lost the popular vote and won with the Electoral College. those were the rules. the reason the election is known to be stolen is that the U.S. Constitution says that it is a matter *purely* of state law that determines how the state's electors are chosen, the final arbiter of Florida state law is the Florida Supreme Court and they clearly ruled that Florida law says that an election with less than 1/4% margin of victory gets hand counted. by circumventing that, they didn't play by the rules.

    but, until the rules are changed, a prez candidate that loses the popular vote yet wins the electoral vote wins the election. until the rules are changed a Burlington mayoral candidate that has the plurality of 1st-choice votes but is rejected by the majority of Burlington voters in favor of another specific candidate, that candidate *loses*. just saying without justification that "she won the election Duh" doesn't cut it. it's circular reasoning. you're simply saying that the reason to identify that the plurality winner should win the election is "because she won the election. Duh."

    "Duh" is right.

    can you do a little better to justify your case?

    i said "when IRV advocates claim that IRV creates and incentive to vote strategically ..."

    meant to say "when anti-IRV advocates claim that IRV creates and incentive to vote strategically..." or "when IRV detractors claim that IRV creates and incentive to vote strategically..."

    it's like the Wicked Bible (look that one up, Web). sometimes a missing word changes the meaning of things.

    geez i gotta proof-read better: should be "when anti-IRV advocates claim that IRV creates an incentive to vote strategically"

    Irv must go. It is simple as that. we have a mayor who has 29 percent. does that sound like right to you. with irv the canadates have not run real good campaigns. when IRV is gone all the canadates will be fighting for votes and we will get real campaigns.

    Overheard in a discussion about Repeal IRV -- "Pro-IRV gives smaller parties in Burlington a chance to compete with big parties." Support IRV to elect a Republican mayor? The fact is that before IRV, Burlington elected mayors from three different parties -- Dem, Rep, Prog. Yet the perception is that the only way small parties can compete is with the help of IRV. Another tricky twist of of logic that is circulating is the idea that IRV is majority voting! That defies reason given the facts of the recent election. A Mayor was elected by 12% of the registered voters and three different candidates had the distinction of being a winner based on plurality, majority or.. I forget what the other one was, but I ask, a majority of what? What is wrong with a simple system where the candidate with the most votes wins?

    "Irv must go. It is simple as that."

    no Loyal, it is *not* as simple as that. to take the position that you take, it's like any alternative to IRV is better. sorta like the Abomination of the just ended decade. "anyone but W" can make sense and was vindicated in 2008 when everything tanked. but you're taking the "anything but IRV" and you haven't engaged any of the issues regarding the problems that 40+% Plurality (or delayed runoff) have. and that's surprizing since it's the liberals in Burlington that are so aware of what Plurality does to 3rd parties. we adopted IRV in 2005 because we *knew* the danger of Plurality to elect a candidate opposed by 60% of the town. the Progs and Dems have every right to see themselves as different political parties with many common goals. forcing the Progs and Dems to somehow combine support specifically behind a *single* candidate is what the GOP anti-IRV types want. that's why i'm suprized to see you on that side. it's okay, but i cannot see how you are acting in either your own political interest *or* for the best interest of the multiparty town we live in.

    "we have a mayor who has 29 percent."

    no, it's more like 52% (compared to Wright's 48%) but the problem is that he's 46% next to Andy's 54%. and Wright loses to both Montroll and Kiss. that is the incontrovertible fact that the GOPers don't wanna admit.

    the alternative that you are supporting is worse, its danger is that of electing the *least* supported candidate of the three either with a plurality or, if it goes to runoff, the GOPers think that more of them will show up at the polls on Runoff Day. but *that* is what is truly gaming the system.

    "does that sound like right to you. with irv the canadates have not run real good campaigns."

    oh, so let's go back to Plurality so we can entertain ourselves watching the mud fly?

    i think the candidates did pretty good outlining their differences where they had them.

    "when IRV is gone all the canadates will be fighting for votes and we will get real campaigns."

    wha...? fight with what? guns? machetes? mud?

    what punches were they pulling last March, Loyal? might you enlighten us to specifically which blows they didn't land?

    Loyal, step back and look where you're standing. you're on the right side most of the time (IRV notwithstanding BTW, i met you at Eli's house.)

    In fact since you had some part in the Ward 7 race, you should be directly aware of how the delayed runoff may have directly messed up that election. Vince Dober cannot claim any mandate when he squeaks by with a come-from-behind but half the Election Day voters show up. That should be another pretty good example of the Delayed-Runoff experiment (inconclusive, perhaps a failure), which is what motivated the call to the Ranked-order Ballot (which IRV uses) instead. IRV tabulated that ranked ballot poorly in 2009, that is most certainly true. Condorcet would do better, but losing the ranked-order ballot is far worse. IRV may have done far better than what the old rules might have done. i'll bet, if we never had IRV and Kurt Wright beat Bob Kiss in runoff with half the normal electorate showing up (and just squeaks by), you'ld be on the other side.


    In fact, I am even more intrigued that you'ld be on that side, since you've runned for mayor yourself in 2006.

    So Loyal, you're not going to win an election for Mayor of Burlington, why run? I would have earlier presumed that it's because there is a specific statement, perhaps on a specific issue, that you want to make and with more people voting for you, that statement gets made a little more loudly.

    But even if I liked what you were saying and I wanted to join in and make the political statement with you, how could I do that with Plurality? Unless you were nominated by one of the big 3 had a support constituency and I thought you had better than an ice cube's chance in hell of winning, I could not would not throw away my "single vote" on your candidacy. Whose votes do you think you'ld be wasting? That of the Prog, the Dem, or the GOP? Because with Plurality, a vote for Loyal Ploof is one less vote for one of them and it's one of them that's gonna win and I might want to have a stake in which of the viable candidates wins.

    Whereas with a Ranked-Order Ballot, I can make my political statement voting for Loyal or the Cowman (or Dan Smith) and still cover my butt and not elect the candidate I support the least. Plurality favors dichotomy; the two-party system. IRV favors 3rd parties, Independents, and the like.

    Your opposition to the ranked ballot is very strange and self-defeating.

    "Overheard in a discussion about Repeal IRV -- 'Pro-IRV gives smaller parties in Burlington a chance to compete with big parties.' Support IRV to elect a Republican mayor?"

    It could happen if Burlington evolved to be a more conservative city (with more Dems leaning right than left) and the GOP candidate was popular for non-partisan reasons (charismatic or ultra-competent or apparently squeeky-clean and real, who knows?) and moderate. I don't see how that couldn't happen. But the reason to not give up on the Ranked Ballot is that we know that Plurality favors a two-party system by penalizing those who throw away their vote on the candidate that ends up third or lower in the only count that seems important to you.

    But with a ranked-order ballot, we know how each anonymous voter would choose between any pair of candidates. If you like Loyal Ploof better than any other candidate, you can vote for him as #1. It still means that if the election were between two *viable* candidates (one whom you like better than the other), an election that has consequence, you can still have a voice in that.

    but, if it were Plurality you could not do that. If Loyal had a little movement behind him, something that could develop into another (4th or 5th) party, he would be perceived as taking votes away from one or the other viable candidates. And voting for Loyal would not help (and in a dichotomy, that means "harm") the viable candidate one supports. Loyals 3rd or 4th or 5th party would have to overcome that adversity, in order for it to be relevant.

    "The fact is that before IRV, Burlington elected mayors from three different parties -- Dem, Rep, Prog. Yet the perception is that the only way small parties can compete is with the help of IRV."

    Progs are now a viable, credible party. One reason I've been disappointed with them about this is that, although they would be quick to point out how a change back to Plurality would favor the GOP candidate, they don't admit that hanging on to specifically IRV, despite the legitimate complaints about it, *does* favor their party, because they are the majority of the majority. The larger subgroup (Prog vs. Dem) or the larger group (liberals vs. conservatives) in Burlington. But it is no good reason to advocate for an election method, just because one favors (for that particular time) the political group one identifies with.

    Hell, you can say that Condorcet favors the centrist candidate, because for voters in the left or right wing, after their 1st-choice fringe candidate, their 2nd-choice is likely not going to be for the candidate on the other fringe. Their 2nd-choice is likely for the centrist candidate and Condorcet makes more use out of 2nd-choice votes than does IRV.

    But because an election method tends to (at a particular town and era) favor some group or another is not a good reason to use it. Because Condorcet tends to favor the current centrist group is no reason to use it. The reason that the Condorcet winner should win the election is that this is the candidate that the majority of voters prefer against any other candidate.

    IRV is not Condorcet (unfortunately) and we saw directly that it is not in 2009. But sometimes IRV elects the Condorcet candidate. Here, in Burlington, we've only done it twice and it's 1 for 2 so far. It might be interesting to find out in other IRV towns like Cambridge MA or Mpls. MN or SF CA, how often their IRV elections elected the Condorcet candidate.

    But we know that IRV has a better chance than Plurality of electing the Condocet candidate. In our 2009 example, the Condorcet candidate, the single candidate whom the majority of voters say is better than any other candidate, that candidate would not have been in the delayed runoff. The only "reform" that the old election rule could have offered the 2009 mayoral election in Burlington is increase the possibility that the candidate liked the *least* (out of the big 3) gets elected. That's worse.

    @ Perfesser BJ: if you had put just a tiny fraction of the effort you've put into posting and arguing on this blog into getting your fancy Condorcet proposal on the ballot, you might just have gotten it on the ballot.

    Web, you have no idea of what you're talking about.

    i've been to NPAs and even one of the initial anti-IRV meetings with White Papers, poster board, numbers and facts.

    and a petition.

    people are deaf. people don't want to listen (including you). people would rather chant their chants and be polarized than *think*. this is repeated in many political situations. why is it that we had to choose between Dumb and Dumber instead of Dean and Dumber in 2004?

    one of the reasons for having 3rd parties and/or credible independent candidates is so we can have a choice other than Dumb and Dumber. but plurality favors the two-party system. this is why we need a ranked-order ballot. too bad that whomever thunked up "hey, let's have a ranked ballot in Burlington" decided to attach that ballot to the dumb IRV tabulation rules. but the 40%+ Plurality rules are dumber.

    so again, this March, our choice is between Dumb and Dumber. how nice.

    maybe *after* this March, whoever loses will be listening (but there is no guarantee of that) and we can get 1700 signatures for Condorcet. because, whoever loses will be better off with Condorcet than what they're gonna get. and whoever wins will have their *legitimate* gripes addressed with Condorcet.

    it's just dumb.

    You want simple? Here are the simple facts:

    1) A preference voting system like IRV is by far a much fairer method to use than the "simple" winner-take-all plurality system in the case when there are more than two viable candidates;

    2) This means that more voters wre happy and/or comfortable with the prospect of Kiss as mayor than they would have been with any of the other candidates assuming the post;

    3) This is because IRV corrects the biggest flaw and frustration of the old plurality system: the spoiler problem.

    Hey, if you still don't get it, then just vote the old way and don't specify your second, third, etc. preferences. Under the IRV system, you still retain the right to only vote for your first choice. But don't you dare pretend that forcing others to vote their fears rather than their hopes is not a "problem." With all due respect, "Webber," what don't you get about any of the above?

    With all due respect, Russ (and you and I are voting the same way on March 2), there are some important facts that you need to know.

    Your point #2: In Burlington's IRV in 2009 (these pathologies did not happen in 2006), it turned out to *not* be the case "that more voters were happy and/or comfortable with the prospect of Kiss as mayor than they would have been with any of the other candidates assuming the post". More voters would have been happy and/or comfortable with the prospect of Montroll as mayor than Kiss. The IRV election actually suffered the Thwarted Majority pathology. It elected the wrong candidate, from the POV of the majority of Burlington voters.

    Your point #3: It turns out also to be untrue that "IRV corrects the biggest flaw and frustration of the old plurality system: the spoiler problem". It did not. A spoiler is a *loser* of an election whose presence in the election (and on the ballot) actually changes who the winner is. To be spoiler-free means that removing any loser from the election will not change who the winner is. Kurt Wright was precisely that spoiler (perhaps not intending to be such). If Wright was not in the race and everyone voted for the remaining candidates just like they had on March 3, Andy Montroll, not Bob Kiss, would be the mayor.

    The numbers supporting these conclusions are all in the public record.

    Would you like me to send you a paper that spells it out? (and it's not a pile of anti-IRV drivel.) send me your email address to [email protected] and i'll send you a copy.

    While it may not seem like it, we actually *are* on the same side, sorta. But I do try to correct any "happy talk" about the success of IRV in Burlington in 2009. IRV screwed up last March, but the old 40%+ Plurality/Delayed_Runoff method would have done no better and could very well have done worse, far worse.

    Gee, Russ. I guess YOU don't know what YOU'RE talking about. Kiss was NOT the most popular candidate. You're spewing Prog talking points. Hit the road.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Robert, one that concentrated on debating facts and was respectfully written. I do know that IRV is occasionally subject to mathematical anomalies and that such a situation could have been said to have occurred during the last Burlington mayoral election. Perhaps I could've and should've chosen more precise wording to describe the end result in that race; however, I still stand by my main point - one that you "happily" agree with - which is that preference voting systems - take your pick from among IRV, Borda, Condorcet, etc., whichever would've worked best in the Burlington case - are still much better than the old plurality method.

    As far as your response is concerned, Webber, I just want you to know that while the Vermont Progressives are indeed my party of choice, I have been an advocate of preference voting systems like IRV for a long time and I don't take my cue from any party's "talking points" agenda items. IRV just seems the fairer way to go to me. (And I suppose it wasn't quite "fair" of me to single you out in my prior post, so I apologize for putting you on the defensive like that.)

    Fair enough. No problem.

    IRV leads to two party domination:

    "The three IRV countries: Ireland (mandated in their 1937 constitution), Australia and Malta (and more recently Fiji for a brief period of IRV democracy before its coup) all are 2-party dominated (in IRV seats) – despite having many other features in their governments which would seem much more multiparty-genic than the USA with IRV added will ever have. So you can be sure the USA with IRV would be 2-party dominated too." - from the Center for Range Voting's report "Why does IRV lead to 2-party domination?

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