Larry Bradley’s Ezine #409 What Happened at the Hearing for Ranked Choice Voting?

Weekly Ezine Number 409

What Is Happening with Election Reform?

What Happened at the Hearing for Ranked Choice Voting on April 24?

What Is Happening with Election Reform?

–Kansas Democrats have decided to conduct a 2020 Presidential Primary Election using Ranked Choice Voting. Many details have yet to be confirmed. Those details that are available can be seen here.  Iowa Democrats and both parties in Maine are already in pursuit of doing so. It’s time to get the Party officials in your state to copy what these three states are doing. Republicans may not need this in 2020, but they will assuredly need it 2024, so we urge them to get on board.

What Happened at the Hearing for Ranked Choice Voting on April 24?

We attended the hearing for HB 28 on April 24, 2019 in the Missouri House of Representatives, along with several members of Better Ballot KC. HB 28, entitled “Every Vote Counts” calls for Ranked Choice/Instant Runoff Voting (RCV) to be used in local elections in Missouri. The Bill was proposed by Rep. Dan Stacy of Blue Springs. The hearing was held in front of the Elections and Elected Officials committee, whose members can be seen here.

Rep Stacy led off with a presentation on the Bill. Stacy emphasized how often in local elections the winner has substantially less than a majority of votes. The questions Stacy was getting demonstrated to us two points. First, that the committee members were not fully appreciative of workings and necessity of RCV. Second, that the assumption was the voting machines being used in the state were unable to accommodate RCV.

Accordingly, we adjusted our presentation order. Our first presenter was Kimberly Gere. She showed a color-coded chart demonstrating that over 90% of Missouri already had voting machines capable of handling RCV. Would there be charges for software adjustments? Yes, but at a small fraction of the cost of replacing the machines. Ms. Gier’s presentation had an impact. The committee now knew that RCV was possible in Missouri for a minimum investment. Her testimony changed the tone and tenor of the entire hearing.

All in all, there were 6 people who testified in favor of HB 28. Among those testifying for the Bill was Eric Fey, Director of Elections for the St. Louis County Election Board. No one testified against it and only two County Clerk representatives testified as a point of information.

Overall, Better Ballot KC summarized the “for” testimony this way.

  • The Election machines in Missouri are, by and large, capable of using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Most of those that cannot are in the process of being replaced. Software changes will be required, but the investment in this better capability is not nearly so daunting as having to change the machines. Any jurisdictions that are able to eliminate a second run-off election by having one instant run-off election would save a tremendous amount of money each election cycle
  • Our continued use of the Winner Take All Ballot makes it impossible to have elections that guarantee majority winners. Too many of our elections are resulting in plurality, not majority, winners. Our tolerance of plurality winners is a threat to the perceived legitimacy of election results and government itself. Only RCV will guarantee majority winners in elections.
  • Using RCV takes away the Spoiler effect in elections. We clarified how the winner is calculated in each round and why the instant runoff rounds of voting is fair to both voters and candidates. For example, in the case of the Kansas election (the Kansas gubernatorial primary in 2018) we showed you, it would have been impossible for the third place finisher to have gathered enough votes to move into second place. Accordingly, had RCV been in place, the KS Secretary of State could have immediately declared all but the top two candidates defeated and immediately run the program to determine which of the remaining candidates got second or third choice votes from the supporters of the defeated candidates.
  • Current MO election law has thrown up an unintended legal obstacle to local groups trying to get RCV instituted in their communities. Passage of this Bill would alleviate that, but failing that in the near term, we would be appreciate assistance with the MO Attorney General offering an authorizing interpretation of the law.

After the hearing, our group spoke with both the Committee Chair and Representative Stacy. Both praised our presentations and left the impression that our testimony had moved RCV closer to being a reality in MO.

Until next time.

Regards,

Larry

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