Both citizens and Council members have expressed interest in improving our elections processes so that the results better represent the electorate. But what does better representation mean? How do we measure it? It’s very easy to get into discussions over voting systems, but what generally is avoided is this more fundamental question. Here are some thoughts:

Starting in 2023, our mayor will be directly elected rather than chosen by the sitting Council members. Whether this will function better is an open question, but it was voted into place in 2020, so we need to deal with it. It’s obvious to me that the best test of the voting system for mayor is whether the person chosen as mayor would beat each of the other candidates in a head-to-head contest. When I discussed this with one of our local experts, a woman involved with the League of Women Voters, I found out that this is called the Condorcet Method (voting system). It has been around for hundreds of years and is generally thought to have by far the most representative results.

Basically, Condorcet uses a ranked choice voting ballot, where the voters can rank the various candidates in order of preference. But unlike the typical form of RCV, it allows the voter to rank two or more candidates equally and to not rank some at all. The tabulation system then matches all pairs of candidates in head-to-head contests. These results are then used to see who comes out on top. In almost all cases, this will end up with one candidate beating all the others, so that candidate will be the winner. This avoids the major flaw with the standard RCV of dropping the more moderate candidates, who would easily beat the extreme candidates if the vote were one on one, head-to-head.

In the highly unlikely “circular firing squad” situation where candidate A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A, www.equal.vote/condorcet  lays out some very reasonable ways for resolution, and discusses the system in general.

This Condorcet process is fully consistent with the “ranked choice (instant runoff) voting” language in the 2020 Direct Election of Mayor ballot measure. So we don’t need another election to fix it. But it does require using different software to do the tabulating. Fortunately that already exists; again, see the equal.vote/condorcet web site.

This brings us to the more difficult issue of the election of Council members. When people talk about better representation, usually the first thought is to elect Council members from districts, so presumably that member is more approachable by district residents. Many cities in Colorado use this approach. A strong argument against this is that only one person ends up as the winner in any district, so other points of view are not represented. And Boulderites are very multi-dimensional on policy matters.

I’m assuming we will continue with all seats at-large. The gripe with the current system (where each voter gets as many votes as there are open seats) is that the majority dominates, and the minority can be shut out.

The question then is — how can eight Council members plus one mayor possibly accurately “represent” the varying perspectives of over 100,000 Boulder residents? What voting system could claim to produce that, given the multiplicity of points of view? Is there something equivalent to the head-to-head test for Council elections? Or is the only solution that Council members are open and engage in meaningful dialogue with the citizens?

Suppose that the electorate is split 55%/45% on the “big issue” of the moment. If the Council and mayor are elected as currently proposed for 2023, there is the possibility that all nine would be on the 55% side. Clearly that’s not representative. A split Council, with 4 Council members on each side, and with the mayor on the 55% side (5/9 = 55.6%) would arguably be more “representative,” at least on that one big issue. But what system would produce that, besides giving each voter only two votes for the four open Council seats every two years? And what about the myriad of other hot button issues?

The current approach to identifying interests is “slates,” even though they are arguably illegal under the current city Code, which forbids almost all “coordination” among candidates. Worse, they implicitly assume that the voters are somewhat one-dimensional. So, do we just elect people however, let them do their thing, and hope for the best but prepare for the worst? Clearly, a lot more work needs to be done!

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Both citizens and Council members have expressed interest in improving our elections processes so that the results better represent the electorate. But what does better representation mean? How do we measure it? It’s very easy to get into discussions over voting systems, but what generally is avoided is this more fundamental question. Here are some thoughts:

Starting in 2023, our mayor will be directly elected rather than chosen by the sitting Council members. Whether this will function better is an open question, but it was voted into place in 2020, so we need to deal with it. It’s obvious to me that the best test of the voting system for mayor is whether the person chosen as mayor would beat each of the other candidates in a head-to-head contest. When I discussed this with one of our local experts, a woman involved with the League of Women Voters, I found out that this is called the Condorcet Method (voting system). It has been around for hundreds of years and is generally thought to have by far the most representative results.

Basically, Condorcet uses a ranked choice voting ballot, where the voters can rank the various candidates in order of preference. But unlike the typical form of RCV, it allows the voter to rank two or more candidates equally and to not rank some at all. The tabulation system then matches all pairs of candidates in head-to-head contests. These results are then used to see who comes out on top. In almost all cases, this will end up with one candidate beating all the others, so that candidate will be the winner. This avoids the major flaw with the standard RCV of dropping the more moderate candidates, who would easily beat the extreme candidates if the vote were one on one, head-to-head.

In the highly unlikely “circular firing squad” situation where candidate A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A, www.equal.vote/condorcet  lays out some very reasonable ways for resolution, and discusses the system in general.

This Condorcet process is fully consistent with the “ranked choice (instant runoff) voting” language in the 2020 Direct Election of Mayor ballot measure. So we don’t need another election to fix it. But it does require using different software to do the tabulating. Fortunately that already exists; again, see the equal.vote/condorcet web site.

This brings us to the more difficult issue of the election of Council members. When people talk about better representation, usually the first thought is to elect Council members from districts, so presumably that member is more approachable by district residents. Many cities in Colorado use this approach. A strong argument against this is that only one person ends up as the winner in any district, so other points of view are not represented. And Boulderites are very multi-dimensional on policy matters.

I’m assuming we will continue with all seats at-large. The gripe with the current system (where each voter gets as many votes as there are open seats) is that the majority dominates, and the minority can be shut out.

The question then is — how can eight Council members plus one mayor possibly accurately “represent” the varying perspectives of over 100,000 Boulder residents? What voting system could claim to produce that, given the multiplicity of points of view? Is there something equivalent to the head-to-head test for Council elections? Or is the only solution that Council members are open and engage in meaningful dialogue with the citizens?

Suppose that the electorate is split 55%/45% on the “big issue” of the moment. If the Council and mayor are elected as currently proposed for 2023, there is the possibility that all nine would be on the 55% side. Clearly that’s not representative. A split Council, with 4 Council members on each side, and with the mayor on the 55% side (5/9 = 55.6%) would arguably be more “representative,” at least on that one big issue. But what system would produce that, besides giving each voter only two votes for the four open Council seats every two years? And what about the myriad of other hot button issues?

The current approach to identifying interests is “slates,” even though they are arguably illegal under the current city Code, which forbids almost all “coordination” among candidates. Worse, they implicitly assume that the voters are somewhat one-dimensional. So, do we just elect people however, let them do their thing, and hope for the best but prepare for the worst? Clearly, a lot more work needs to be done!

, Opinion: Steve Pomerance: Improving our elections , Steve Pomerance , 2021-12-16 20:45:17 , Boulder Daily Camera , https://www.dailycamera.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/20190411_12DCECOLw-1-1.jpg?w=1400px&strip=all , https://www.dailycamera.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/20190411_12DCECOLw-1-1.jpg?w=311&h=211 , [rule_{ruleNumber}] , [rule_{ruleNumber}_plain] , , , https://www.dailycamera.com/2021/12/16/opinion-steve-pomerance-improving-our-elections/ , https://www.dailycamera.com/2021/12/16/opinion-steve-pomerance-improving-our-elections/ , www.dailycamera.com , https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailycamera.com%2F2021%2F12%2F16%2Fopinion-steve-pomerance-improving-our-elections%2F , Commentary,Opinion,Opinion Columnists, #Opinion #Steve #Pomerance #Improving #elections