Elections 2022 Dec 6, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Just Gotta Design a New Ballot That Doesn’t Suck, Make It Idiot-Proof, Update the Tabulation System, Figure Out How to Report the Results, and Make Sure Everyone Knows What the Hell’s Going On

Lots to do to implement ranked-choice voting in Seattle before 2027, but the County elections department feels confident in its ability to knock it out. MIKEY BURTON



“Just Gotta Design a New Ballot That Doesn’t Suck, Make It Idiot-Proof, Update the Tabulation System, Figure Out How to Report the Results, and Make Sure Everyone Knows What the Hell’s Going On”

Maybe some or all of these considerations can completely explain why Seattle’s voters had declined even to put RCV on the ballot in the first place? Or why they approved any change at all by less than 3,000 votes out of more than 300,000 cast?


If they have to keep the primary will RCV just be used for the primary then and you'll still have two candidates in the general or will the primary basically be a practice run and then you get a do over for the general? That seems wonky.


I also look forward to Will's inevitable article about how RCV negatively impacts marginalized communities:



@3: I know you’re just taunting Will, but even so, the idea of the Stranger tolerating even the tiniest of political deviations between headline posters is pretty damned funny.


By The Stranger's own admission, a large percentage of the Seattle electorate is either too lazy or too stupid to fill out and return a postage-paid ballot in odd number election years... and you think those folks won't be confused by RCV?

Sure thing, baby. Hahahahahahaha.


@4 I'm really not sure what they are going to do when the inevitable data shows "exhausted" ballots more often than not come from lower income, marginalized communities meaning their vote will end up being discarded in the final tally. Will already thinks odd year elections suppress progressives votes (https://www.thestranger.com/elections-2022/2022/12/02/78751132/seattle-progressives-have-a-turnout-problem) so RCV is really going to blow his mind. It should be somewhat amusing to watch it play out especially if it leads to Sawant being ousted in the primary. She only garnered 36% of the vote in 2019 and I don't think it's a large leap to assume she could come in at 30% while being the 2nd or even 3rd choice on those other 70% of ballots. She could easily be the top vote getter initially and still end up losing out. Can you imagine if that happens? The editorials decrying RCV as a tool of the elite and racist would spew forth. Good times.


Does anyone know if there is a difference in outcome if one just does not rank a candidate they are not enthused by. For example, if there were 4 candidates and Sawant was my 4th place, could I just rank three and not include her. Or for that matter, not rank her and another candidate, ranking two. What happens to the ranking for the two left off of my rankings?


If it got down to the 3rd or 4th round and you had no choice listed your ballot would be exhausted and you would essentially have no vote. This is one of the criticisms of RCV. It essentially disenfranchises those who don’t make enough choices either due to a dislike of candidates or a misunderstanding of the process.


When a democrat wins the House seat in Alaska because of rank choice voting everyone should infer that it ends candidates from the far left and the far right. This should end the progressive city council members time in elected office. Something we can all look forward to.


@7 -- You can vote for as many people as you want. Many just pick the top one. In a lot of races, it won't be worth bothering to mark more than one. For example, if it is a three person primary, there is no point.

This gets to the question @2 raised. This is only for the primary. The primary will have ranked choice. Specifically, it will be instant-runoff ranked choice (not to be confused with other, more useful forms of ranked choice). It will work like so:

Each voter ranks their candidates. If there are more than three people running, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The votes for that person go to their second choice. This process repeats, until there are only three candidates. Once there are three candidates, the top two advance to the general election. The general election is the same (a head to head race). Unlike New York, we don't nominate by party. This makes instant-runoff significantly different (and less useful) than places that do. We already have a nonpartisan blanket primary. This will help if we have a race with four or more popular candidates like ... well, I can't think of any. This solves a problem we don't really have (or have very rarely).

The main reason we have this is because someone suggested solving a problem we do have -- centrist candidates were being defeated by right wingers. It happened twice in the same election. You had a race between three candidates: far-left, progressive and moderate-right*. The extreme candidates won the primary, then the far-left candidate was defeated by the right winger. There are several ways to solve that problem, but approval voting is the simplest. But then the city council decided to push for something else (ranked choice) even though it was largely unnecessary since we have a nonpartisan blanket primary.


@10 -- Nonsense. You obviously don't understand how this works. I can't think of a single city council race where this would change anything. Candidates aren't splitting the votes in the primary, as you rarely have more than three serious candidates.


@8 -- Yes, that is true. But again, that only matters if your first choice is eliminated, and that will only happen if they are in fourth place (or worse). Take the mayoral election for example. There were lots of candidates running in the primary. But it was also clear that this was most likely going to be a two person race (Harrell and Gonzalez). If either one is your first choice, that is all you need to do. I'm not saying that is the best idea, but it would have worked. There is no way either candidate would have ended up in fourth (it is mathematically impossible).


@11: Thank you for admitting the entire point of RCV was to prevent Seattle’s voters from obtaining outcomes the City Council doesn’t want those voters to have. This explains why the City Council put RCV on the ballot, despite RCV repeatedly failing to receive enough support from citizens to get there.

City Attorney Pete Holmes was in his FOURTH consecutive term when he lost the primary election. That result is highly unusual, and general lessons should not be drawn from it. Voters in the primary election fired Holmes for his chronic refusal to DO HIS JOB, i.e. prosecute illegal camping and petty theft. Simultaneously, the Stranger attempted to manipulate the primary election to prevent Davison from appearing on the general election ballot. This resulted in a stark choice: another City Attorney who would NOT DO THE JOB (NTK was refreshingly clear about this) or someone who would. Despite hectoring lectures from the Stranger, voters chose the latter, so the Stranger began advocating for RCV, so future voters could not so easily defy the Stranger’s diktats.

If the Stranger would just stop advocating for policies and candidates who don’t work, then the Stranger wouldn’t have to advocate changing the rules of democracy to get the outcomes it wants.


@8: But that's life. At times, your team loses. If you think of that as being "disenfranchised", so be it. On the other hand, if such a loss prompts people to burn something down as retaliation, we have a problem.

On the other hand, if this wipes out the primary system, it could be interesting. It will keep extremist candidates from playing to the center to make it onto the general ballot and then shift right or left.


@15 you say that but what ultimately will happen is low income and marginalized voters are going to be disenfranchised at a much higher rate and we all know those voters are TS favorites so I see a massive progressive paradox looming when this starts.

@11 I do love the notion there are "right wingers" winning elections in Seattle. Harrell and Davison are at best moderate liberals but I guess in Seattle that passes for right wingers. As noted though this wouldn't have really changed anything. The city atty race ended up being a form of RCV anyway. We had 3 candidates and then in the general the voters that had voted for Holmes got to switch up between Davison and NTK and Davison won. If you back to the primaries from 2021 and 2019 I challenge to even find a race that would have been altered by RCV. I don't see any so we are going to spend a shit load of time and money to set up a new system that will won't change any results. Very on brand for Seattle.


@15: There’s a difference between having voted for the losing side, and having not voted at all. Inadvertent disenfranchisement remains disenfranchisement, and adding in potential victim-blaming does not help. Plus, if inadvertent disenfranchisement can happen, then how can RCV be gamed to either increase the chance of inadvertent disenfranchisement happening more frequently among traditionally-disenfranchised voters, or happening on command without anyone immediately knowing?

@16: You’re assuming the Stranger would ever actually know “low income and marginalized voters” have disenfranchised at all, let alone “a much higher rate,” and

“… we all know those voters are TS favorites…”

Except after they fail at being model minorities, at which point the Stranger turns on them with a vengeance. Performative virtue-signaling chatter about equity makes for feel-good copy, but when the traditionally immigrant, low-income POC voters of the CID spoke out against having another huge homeless magnet in their neighborhoods, the Stranger immediately called them tools of Republican NIMBYs.

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