As we are about to vote in the Burlington mayoral election on Tuesday we are reminded of the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) fiasco of 2009 and are about to face another possible fiasco due to the previous fiasco. Because of a rare statistical fluke of IRV, most analysis using various voting methods for the 2009 election concluded that Andy Montroll should have won. See: http://rangevoting.org/Burlington.html or other sites.
Backers of mayoral candidate Kurt Wright in particular felt that Bob Kiss should not have won the 2009 election and therefore successfully organized to overturn IRV in Burlington. At the same time they imposed a 40% plurality rule to win the mayoral election.
Most elections worldwide including Russia's current Presidential election require a 50% majority to win for executive seat. If you don't get 50% there is a runoff. The Instant Runoff saves the costs of a second election. Good idea if it works. 40% is not democratic. That means that 60% of the people vote against you and you still win. How dumb.
What is the purpose of IRV in the first place? It is to eliminate all the perverse voting problems in a single-member district when there are more than two candidates. in 2009 there were five candidates: Bob Kiss (P), Kurt Wright(R), Andy Montroll(D), Dan Smith(I), and James Simpson(G).
We all know the problem of voting for smaller party candidates in elections. The "throwing-away-your vote" and "spoiler" problems. This is due to the plurality voting system. There is even a theory explaining it called Duverger's Law. Single member districts with plurality voting will mathematically favor a two party system. That is why most countries use proportional representation for legislative bodies and why they have multi party systems and we don't. In our system if you vote for the person you want, it could result in the person you want LEAST to win.
So we are faced with exactly the problem that IRV would have solved. This time there are three candidates Kurt Wright(R) (again), Miro Weinberger(D), and Wanda Hines (I). The election may be close. If you are a Progressive/Dem leaning voter and you vote for Wanda, then it might result in Wright winning. Your second choice might have been Weinberger, but do you dare vote for Wanda in this case? Maybe Wanda will only get a small % and won't be a factor, but we don't know. IRV would have solved the problem. But so would a 50% rule.
If Wright gets less than 50%, and Miro and Wanda split the rest, Wright wins. With a 50% rule this would never happen. There would have to be a runoff. It just happened recently in the Democratic primary election. Tim Ashe and Miro Weinberger tied in the caucus. They had a runoff several weeks later and Weinberger, the more "pure" democrat, won. I don't hear anyone complaining. What's the big deal with a runoff? If we don't like it we can investigate better systems than IRV. wikipedia has a good page on alternative systems. How about a REAL IRV (RIRV)? You rank your choices in order, but only the top two choices in the first round are elegible for the second round. In a real runoff, only the top two candidates can be in the second round.
Now you see why Wright and his supporters imposed the 40% plurality rule at the same time as they overturned IRV. As a Republican in a progressive city, Wright knows he is not likely to get much more than 40%. "Citizenship, not Partisanship?" Not exactly. How about partisanship disguised as citizenship? If Wright and his supporters had lobbied to overturn IRV and at the same time impose a 50% rule, then I might buy this rhetoric. But 40% was clearly done for partisan advantage.
Now Wright is apparently a decent guy and doesn't always hew to the Republican party line. He is known to work with all sides and has a good reputation on the Burlington City Council. Some of my progressive friends are even supporting him. But this IRV business leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It REEKS of partisanship and personal advantage. Otherwise I might have voted for him.
I really don't know who to vote for on Tuesday, and looking for reasons NOT to vote for someone. My main attitude is "throw-the-bums out". The current mayor and city council have screwed up the city's finances. Let someone else have a chance to screw it up. That leaves Wanda and Miro. Either would be fine with me.
But we are stuck with the 40% rule. Guess what Burlington, you fell for it. You have only yourself to blame for the outcome Tuesday.