October 18, 2004

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Sorry Washington Libertarian Party: I'm Officially for I-872

It's official. I support Washington State Initiative 872. I blogged about this issue earlier prompting Libertarian candidate for Washington Secretary of State and former Washington LP chairman Jacqueline Passey to comment that it has produced terrible corruption in Louisiana and it restricts voter choice. It doesn't restrict voter choice, and it's probably not responsible for the corruption in Louisiana. Washington's primary election turnout is high, and will probably continue to be if this initiative passes. It doesn't restrict voter choice, it lets voters choose ANYONE THEY WANT - provided they are smart enough to pick up a primary election ballot. Most importantly, this system does not favor any one political party over any other political party, or even an independent candidate. If the Libertarian Party's opposition to this initiative is merely because Instant Runoff Voting is better, I can respect that (because it is better - much better), but I think it's better to vote now for the best measure on the ballot now, and vote for I-318 when and if it is on the ballot (there is now considerable doubt about whether we will meet the signature requirements for the 2005 ballot - I'd help collect if I was there!). In this election, I-872 is the ONLY electoral reform measure on the ballot. As a result of this, a vote against 872 is a vote for the current system, and the current system is terrible. Of course, 318's being better does not seem to be Ms. Passey's reason for opposing 872, and this smacks of the Washington Libertarian Party seeking to preserve and increase its (extremely limited) institutional power, which is profoundly un-libertarian. Under I-872, there will be no institutional reasons for Libertarian candidates not getting elected. If they fail to get elected, it will be only because the people chose not to vote for them (in the primary), and if that is our only problem, we can't work on it institutionally, we've got to simply change people's minds.

Incidentally, while I haven't decided exactly how I am going to vote yet, I have no other immediately obvious with the voting recomendations on the Libertarian Party of King County web-site which is posted on Ms. Passey's blog here. To all those reading: take a look at the voter information guide, take a look at the web, make an informed decision, VOTE, and vote smart.

(Hint on how to vote smart: Michael Badnarik for President!)

Posted by Kenny at October 18, 2004 10:26 PM
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"It doesn't restrict voter choice"

It reduces your choices in the General Election -- the one most people vote in -- to two and only two candidates. How can you say this doesn't restrict voter choice when some races currently have four candidates? You've halving the choice, in the election that most people vote in and that actually elects people!

If you don't think the Lousiana system produces problems, then you really need to read this all the way through.

Posted by: Jacqueline Passey at October 18, 2004 10:35 PM

Think of it this way: This system essentially eliminates the primary altogether, and instead has a general election with a single mandatory runoff. Sure, it reduces choices in the general election on Nov. 2. So what? There's more to the political process and our participation in it than a single vote on a single ballot. It doesn't reduce MY choices - I vote in ALL elections, not just the final "general" elections. Other people who care do that to. If people who are less politically active don't like their choices in the final election, then they will be more inclined to vote on the preliminary ballot.

I read almost all of your link (I've seen it before). It is a list of problems with Louisiana politics. Not all of them are caused by this primary system, and the Washington system is not identical to the Louisiana one, it is only based on it. Most notably, I-872 would make ALL elections have final "run-offs," so that at least the complaint about elections being decided in advance would be less justified than in the Louisiana case. Furthermore, why do we want a "moderating" effect? We're Libertarians! We ARE the extreme!

One more important point, this one more pertinent: The proposed initiative DOES allocate $1.3 million for a one time public education campaign. This could be used very effectively to convince voters of the importance of voting in the preliminary election. If elected, can we trust YOU, Ms. Passey, to implement this campaign effectively? I'd like to vote for you, because I'd like to see IRV come about, but your strong opposition to 872 gives me some cause for doubt.

Posted by: Kenny at October 19, 2004 12:12 AM

The problem with I-872 is that it forces political parties to restrict the number of candidates they run in the primary - or risk having the party split its vote and have no candidate in the general. This can happen to
a party that has majority support! (So basically, to maximize their chances of making the general election ballot, parties will have to pick their candidates by other means before the primary - and run only a single candidate in the primary -- which violates the whole point of even having a primary.)

For instance, if the primary results are:
19% Mr. White (Big Party)
19% Mr. Brown (Big Party)
20% Mrs. Green (Big Party)
21% Mrs. Gray (Small Party)
21% Mr. Black (Small Party)

Then the Small Party gets both spots on the General Election Ballot, in spite of the Big Party having won 58% of the primary vote! That potential outcome is just too wrong - and prevents me from supporting I-872.

Better than top two (but not as good as IRV) would be: The candidate receiving the most votes FROM the party receiving the most votes, plus whatever other candidate recieved the most primary votes - goes to the general election.

Posted by: Wayne VanWeerthuizen at October 22, 2004 12:29 AM

I think you have a good point, Wayne, but as a Libertarian, I don't think the government should be involved in the individual parties selecting which candidate to run anyway. If this forces the Democrats and Republicans to do what the Libertarian Party already does and pick their candidates at a convention, that's fine. Then we won't have to pay for it. I-872 doesn't really have a primary: instead it has a general election with a single mandatory run-off vote. It is true that in my district, for instance, there is a real possibility that if the Democrats run two candidates they could do exactly what you say (although the Republicans have the support of probably 60-ish% of voters), since the Republicans often run many candidates (in the last primary 5 Republicans ran for state House of Representatives). But as far as I'm concerned all of this is for the parties to figure out themselves, like it should be to begin with. One less thing for the government to get involved with. If the party bosses allow some corruption to enter into the nominating process when this happens, then people will just have to vote Libertarian instead :) In an SMDP/SMSP/FPTP (there are two many different ackronyms) electoral system, there is no good reason for the government to recognize the existence of political parties at all because, at least in theory, we vote for the person, not the party.

Posted by: Kenny at October 22, 2004 1:03 AM

I think you have a good point Kenny, regarding the election laws not making any reference to parties. That is one reason I support Ranked Choice Voting systems, such as Condorcet, IRV, or Borda Count -- they do not require election laws to respect parties.

But our current election systems fail the criteria that has been called "independence of clones". The introduction of a second candidate with identical qualifications and views to the first should not reduce the chance that one of them will be elected. The traditional way of to make poor election systems a bit more immune to this problem is to group the candidates by party. (Although there is still the problem of spoiling between candidates of the same party, there is significant benefit in having the problem pushed back a level.)

The ultimate goal is to make sure that the candidate who eventually wins, is the candidate with the best public support.
Grouping candidates by party is just a means to that end. Although is not the best solution, it should not be shunned in situations where it helps.

Both Montana and Top-2 have common situations where they fail to elect the "best" candidate. I just think that when top-2 fails, the outcome is more tragic than in situations where Montana fails.

Posted by: Wayne VanWeerthuizen at October 22, 2004 1:40 AM

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