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Monthly Marin Ranked Voting Meeting>San Rafael<Aroma Cafe{LA IRV UPDATE Contained}

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Event Type:
Bob Richard
He perfers phone contact
(415) 256-9393
Aroma Cafe in downtown San Rafael 1122 4th St
Location Details:
Off 101 - Downtown San Rafael exit - Just after the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge turn off, when going north on 101 - Go up 4th St. - toward San Anselmo Between A and B Streets.

FW: For its July meeting, Marin Ranked Voting will change locations. We will meet at the Aroma Cafe in downtown San Rafael on Wednesday, July 18 at 7:00pm. Everyone interested in better ways of choosing public officials is encouraged to drop by. The Aroma Cafe is at 1122 4th Street, between A and B Streets. Our regular location at College of Marin will be available again in August, but we may decide to make the switch permanent anyway. Meanwhile, you've seen lots of calls to action about AB 1294 recently, and know that the next stop is the Senate Elections Committee on July 10. But did you know that IRV for city elections is now on the political agenda in Los Angeles? On June 13 a committee of the City Council instructed the city clerk to spend the next six months writing up IRV and a laundry list of other proposals for improving turnout in city elections. Below is an extensive eyewitness report, plus documents, from David Holtzman, Los Angeles area coordinator for Californians for Electoral Reform. -- Bob Richard ------------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- Original Message -------- Subject: [LAvoteFIRE] City Hall developments - from the 10th floor Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 16:19:11 -0700 From: David Holtzman To: Friends, Members and Supporters of L.A. VoteFIRE Dear Friends and Supporters of Having Instant Runoff Elections, On Wed., June 13, on the 10th floor of city hall, the Los Angeles City Council Rules and Elections Committee discussed several ways to improve city elections, including the motion by Councilmembers Huizar and Garcetti that would move the city a step closer to using Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). [see press coverage reproduced below] Of about 50 people in the audience at the committee meeting, about a dozen wore "IRV 4 LA" stickers that I brought along. Most of the speakers expressed support for IRV, but the committee did not vote on the Huizar-Garcetti motion -- because the discussion went too long (all but one of the committee members left before it was over) and the IRV issue is being folded into a larger report on election reform that the City Clerk is expected to produce over the next six months. The bottom line from the Rules and Elections Committee meeting last Wednesday is that the committee did not vote on anything, but instead asked City Clerk Frank Martinez to report back in 6 months, on several proposals, including the Huizar-Garcetti motion on IRV, all together under one council file number. Eric Garcetti said Jose Huizar would be fine with that, although Huizar had come and gone hours before. So: the IRV motion has been delayed because it has been combined with other issues. In general, an omnibus election reform is not a very efficient vehicle. (It reminds me of "Big Green", a multi-idea statewide environmental initiative that eventually went down to defeat.) Part of the delay on IRV was due to Committee Member Richard Alarcon's opposition. In his remarks at the committee meeting, he expressed displeasure with the claim that IRV would reduce negative advertising in politics. Alarcon said that going negative was often a good idea in politics. Then he disparaged IRV as "radical" because it is not yet in widespread use in governmental elections in the United States ( -- although it is used in many places around the world, and by numerous civic and professional groups in the U.S., and in many mainstream academic communities). He acknowledged that democracy is expensive, but would not jump on the "fewer elections" bandwagon (however, he may have felt somewhat defensive in a room full of people concerned with voter fatigue because his early departure from the State Legislature had just casued a special election). Nevertheless, because Dennis Zine seemed supportive, and Eric Garcetti seconded the motion, it is my sense that if the IRV motion had been considered separately, it would have passed the committee on a 2-1 vote. Details of the committee meeting The Rules and Elections Committee meeting started with (fairly long) presentations from several influential groups about a variety of election improvement ideas. The groups were: the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project; the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; California Common Cause; the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; the New America Foundation; and the William C. Velasquez Institute (formerly the Southwest Voter Research Institute). Some very good news from the meeting is that all the groups that expressed opinions on IRV said positive things. (At least one presenter called it "the star of the show," to general agreement.) So we can work together moving forward. Individual Councilmembers also expressed support for IRV, and for some of the other proposals being discussed (including ideas about holding city elections at the same time as state elections, about the number and location of polling places, and about letting people called to jury duty work at the polls instead). City Clerk's report City Clerk Frank Martinez gave a long presentation about the most recent election and related issues. For razzle-dazzle, his staff brought along polling place hardware (voting booths, an audio ballot marker, and an overvote/undervote alert system) and some pollworker recruitment commercials. One thing he noted was that his office was understaffed relative to similar offices in other big cities. Combining elections to increase turnout One obvious way to increase turnout in city elections would be to have them on the same day as Congresssional and Presidential elections. But the county is very reluctant to run city elections. So for the city to have its elections on the same Election Day as state and federal elections, the City Clerk would need to run a concurrent election. Indeed, on May 15, the city and the county had successfully run two separate elections at the same time and in the same polling places: a vacant State Assembly seat (Alarcon's) was up in a special election (the county runs state elections) while the L.A. Community College District had a district-wide runoff that day for one of its board seats (the city runs LACCD elections). But despite being proud of the May 15 effort, Frank Martinez said he'd rather resign than run citywide elections -- with or without IRV -- on the same November Election Days as the county runs the elections for federal and state offices. (Of course he might just stay and conduct such citywide elections if the City Council would address his complaint about the understaffing of his office.) Anyway, for now, L.A. VoteFIRE has proposed using IRV to eliminate the city's separate primary election day in March (of odd-numbered years). This would let voters express their top choices and runoff choices on the regular city general election ballot in May (of odd-numbered years), with one trip to the polls or post office. This simple idea still merits separate consideration. FYI, please see the recent local press related to the meeting, below, including a letter in the L.A. Times by Carole Bradley, who is an L.A. VoteFIRE participant and an active member of the Alternative Voting Methods committee of the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area. As always, thank you for your continued support of having Instant Runoff elections, David Holtzman, Founder Los Angeles Voters For Instant Runoff Elections. [note: Last Saturday, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles decided to pursue education about instant runoff voting, and possible advocacy of IRV (in concurrence with the Pasadena Area League), as an official part of the LWVLA program that begins this year. So IRV is by no means a dead issue for the balance of this year. L.A. VoteFIRE and other organizations will be working with LWVLA to educate voters and the public about instant runoffs, to help us be prepared for action when the City Clerk presents his report. More on this in the next L.A. VoteFIRE update!] ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Instant runoffs might be fix for voter fatigue By Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2007,1,3096499.sto ry Let's begin by agreeing that the Los Angeles City Council's Rules and Elections Committee is not exactly Comedy Central. That's not saying committee Chairman Eric Garcetti isn't a host with a sense of humor. He is. But hey, it's Rules and Elections. Short of passing out whoopee cushions and nachos, you can only do so much. But this Wednesday's meeting may be different because the committee is going to discuss instant runoff voting. If you're tired of the endless electioneering in the city, this is a good thing. And the problem? As attentive readers may recall, this column believes that perpetually low turnout in city elections is due, in part, to the city's insistence on holding elections in March of odd-numbered years. Any wonder that turnout in this year's election was just 11% and even lower during the May runoffs? That means city elections follow directly on the heels of far sexier general elections in November of even-numbered years. The result: Election season feels like hockey season. It never ends. Look at the next couple of years. Voters will have the presidential primary in February, the state primaries in June and the general election in November to decide the presidency. Then, four months later in Los Angeles, in March 2009, eight council seats and the citywide offices of controller, city attorney and mayor will be up for grabs - with possible runoffs to follow in some of those races. That's five elections in 15 months. Uncle! Would instant runoff be easier on voters? Some experts say it would. It's already being used in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Instead of picking one candidate, voters would be asked to rank three by order of preference. Those rankings, in turn, would determine the winner. Let's look at a hypothetical council election involving three candidates: Charlie Brown, Lucy Van Pelt and Pigpen. After the votes are tallied, Lucy received 45%, owing to her pledge to institute a Great Pumpkin eradication program. Pigpen somehow manages 40% and Charlie Brown - always the loser - gets 15%. Because no candidate received a majority, the election would enter an instant runoff phase. The first step would be to eliminate the last-place finisher and redistribute those votes according to whom voters picked second. In other words, if Charlie Brown was your first choice and Lucy your second, then Lucy would get your vote. If Lucy gets enough of those second-place votes to put her over the 50% mark, she wins. The pros and cons of instant runoff: The New America Foundation, which is pushing the proposal in cities across the country, says Los Angeles could save money with instant runoffs, having spent $30.9 million to administer separate runoff elections since 1993. That's not to mention all the fundraising and campaign promises - not all well thought out - that accompany runoffs. More important, the foundation says that candidates vying to be someone's second or third choice would stick to the issues more closely - and sometimes even build coalitions around issues. "Local elections are some of the most important in terms of having an impact on your daily life," said Lynne Serpe, deputy director of the foundation's political reform program. "I think that elections have become so negative and nasty that people tune out and turn off." There is, of course, a con side. Runoffs can be logistically difficult, and eliminating the May general election could also mean denying voters a chance to get to better know the two finalists. Also, it could mean that candidates could win even without a majority vote. The Rules and Elections panel is only going to discuss the idea. But Councilman Jose Huizar - who isn't on the committee - very much wants to see the issue move forward for a council vote. Huizar predicts his colleagues will go for the idea "if we can make the case that we can save a whole lot of money and it will cut down on the madness and negative campaigning." And, Huizar added, it would also help if he can show that instant runoff voting won't affect his colleagues' futures. Stay tuned. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Los Angeles may vote for change Instant runoffs, new dates some proposals for combating low turnout BY KERRY CAVANAUGH, Staff Writer L.A. Daily News, June 14, 2007 To entice Angelenos back to the polls after record-low turnouts in recent years, the city is mulling a host of changes, including new election dates, more mail-in voting and instant runoff voting. In this year's elections, 10 percent of registered voters participated in the March primary and 7 percent turned out for the May general election. The reason? In a hearing Wednesday, voter education groups cited voter fatigue from too many elections, complicated initiatives, language barriers, negative campaigning, lack of interest in local races and a growing belief that voting doesn't matter. "We really need to bring back what the importance is of local elections," said Jimmy Valentine with the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Program. "Your council members, your school board members, those are the ones that figure in your daily lives in your community." One proposal to increase voter turnout - or at least reduce voter fatigue - is instant runoff voting. The system, now used in San Francisco, allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. To determine the winner, officials tally first-choice candidates. If a candidate has a majority, he or she wins. If there is no majority, the last place candidate is eliminated and ballots that listed the candidate as the first choice are recounted using the second choice. That elimination and recount process is continued until a candidate gets a majority of votes. Supporters said instant runoff voting would be cheaper since there's only one election and it could increase participation, since the number of voters tends to decrease in local elections between the primary and final election. Councilman Jose Huizar said he began pushing instant runoff voting after the last election when he went to vote for the community college board trustee runoff, and was told only two other people (beside him and his wife) had voted. "I asked myself, wasn't I just here a few months ago to vote for this person?" Huizar said. So far the proposal has support from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several City Council members, but it's still in the discussion phase and would require changing the city charter and election code. [note: the Mayor has not actually expressed his formal support for IRV. This was an editing error by the Daily News. Apparently, the proposal the mayor supports is vote-by-mail elections.--DAH] ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Letters to the Editor: Make votes really count Re "Instant runoffs might be fix for voter fatigue," June 11 Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2007,1,7897 861.story Based on the low turnout and high cost of the recent city runoff election - which involved only two school board seats and one community college position and cost taxpayers about $8 million - the Los Angeles Community College District has endorsed the concept of change in our electoral system. We have resolved to investigate instant-runoff voting and look forward to the City Council's deliberations on a proposal by Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Jose Huizar. In San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, the instant runoff has proved effective for saving taxpayer dollars and increasing voter participation. MONA FIELD Eagle Rock The writer is a trustee of the Los Angeles Community College District. [note: to use IRV for LACCD elections would require a change in state law, as LACCD elections are not governed by the L.A. City Charter. Pending state legislation sponsored by Californians for Electoral Reform may address this issue.--DAH] Thanks for the timely article. One clarification is needed: With instant-runoff voting, majority support for the winner is assured without a separate election. Also, because voter turnout in the separate runoffs is usually less than in the primary, the majority support with an instant runoff would usually represent a majority of more voters. The Los Angeles City Council should lead the way in the county by using an instant runoff to help fix the current system, which costs taxpayers and candidates too much and leaves voters tired and covering their ears. With an instant runoff, voters simply rank the candidates, indicating who should get their vote if their favorite is eliminated, enabling instantaneous runoffs. This system would take the nastiness out of campaigns because candidates would seek to get high rankings from their opponents' supporters. CAROLE BRADLEY Altadena ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Editorial: Instant runoff voting is worth a look Local agencies can spend less on elections because the primary and runoff occur simultaneously, which would mean less voter fatigue. L.A. Daily Breeze editorial, June 15, 2007 The last two elections supervised by the Los Angeles City Clerk's Office produced dismally low turnouts. Only 10 percent of registered voters took part in the March primary election, and the May runoff election drew only about 7 percent. The problem isn't unique to the city of Los Angeles. Many local elections in the South Bay seem to attract fewer and fewer voters. A timely hearing held this week in the city of L.A. focused needed attention on ways to improve voter turnout. One of the possible reforms is instant-runoff voting, which has been successful in cities like San Francisco. In most jurisdictions, one can select one candidate per elected position. If there are many candidates vying for one or two positions, that usually means a runoff election is necessary for a candidate to secure a majority. Under the instant runoff system, however, voters can rank candidate preferences (first choice, second choice and so on). If a candidate wins a majority in the first-choice category, he wins outright. But if no candidate wins a majority, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and his voters' second choices are added to the tally. Gradually, less popular candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins a majority of preferences. The concept might be confusing at first, but it has advantages. These advantages include: Cost. Local agencies can spend less on elections because the primary and runoff occur simultaneously. Democracy. Supporters say that using preferences is more democratic than, say, city council elections which allow some candidates to win with 25 percent pluralities - or less. Less voter fatigue. Some observers suggest that so many special elections have been held in California in recent years that voters are staying away from the polls. If that's true, instant runoffs would reduce the strain and increase turnouts. More positive campaigns. The theory is that candidates would be less inclined to go negative in order to do well in the second-choice category. So the emphasis would be less on personalities and more an issues. We're not saying that instant runoffs are right for every jurisdiction. But as Debra Bowen, the secretary of state and former South Bay state senator, said recently, instant runoffs could be ideal in races such as this month's 37th Congressional District election, which has a field of 17 candidates. Charter cities can now use the instant runoff system, but state legislation would be required to extend this choice to general law cities and other jurisdictions. Simply put, public agencies need such options to improve voter turnout and to strengthen democratic institutions. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Q&A | LOCAL GOVERNMENT By Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer >From the Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2007,1,6307777.sto ry [...] How did the big discussion of instant runoff voting go in the City Council's Rules and Elections Committee last Wednesday? We teased that discussion here last week, not knowing the meeting would turn into a three-hour-plus example of what happens when you put voter rights activists in front of a microphone - they literally can't stop talking. The result of the meeting was that City Clerk Frank Martinez is going to spend the next six months penciling a report on various ways to help improve turnout and reduce the cost of city elections. On the list of items Martinez will analyze are consolidating city elections with November general elections, going to all mail-in ballots and instant runoff voting, among others. A handful of elected officials have expressed support for instant runoff, but there won't be a meaningful debate on the issue until next year. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ To unsubscribe, write to and ask to be removed from the news list. For more information, visit Add put up OF THE OF THE OF THE SC of
Added to the calendar on Fri, Jul 13, 2007 7:38PM
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