Shouldn't Talk To Santa Clara?

Bart Ingles bartman at
Tue Oct 20 11:22:01 PDT 1998

David Marsay wrote:
> Dear Mike O.
> I think you might draw the attention of the Santa Clara folk
> to this list for views that represent a variety of opinions.
> > Before the Leftist enters, both methods elect either the
> > Centrist or else the Centrist loses, but his voters have the
> > power to choose who does win.
> >
> > After the Leftist enters, IRO is does the same as before, but
> > Runoff gives it to the Centrist for sure.
> There are also examples that go the other way. You believe that the
> 'correct' candidate will tend to make it to the Runoff. I wonder if
> this is so in Santa Clara? 

The few Santa Clara County seats that would be affected by this measure
are all non-partisan, at least in theory (no political affiliation is
listed on the ballot).  These are basically local races, with most
candidates unknown to most voters.  Name recognition and endorsement by
better-known officials are probably the largest factor in a successful

In practice, there are frequently two prominent candidates receiving
endorsements from other elected officials who happen to be aligned with
the two major parties.  In that sense, centrist candidates without
major-party backing would be eliminated immediately under Runoff.


For federal and state-level races in the U.S. the vote distribution
looks more like a double-peak curve than a standard bell curve, although
this is largely an artifact of FPP elections.  The parties that are
commonly thought of as "centrist" include the Libertarians and Reform
Party (Ross Perot), and rarely win more than one or two percent of the
popular vote (both may be considered "extreme" in some respects, but on
the Liberal-Conservative axis they tend to fall in the middle).  There
are also the far left (Green, Peace & Freedom) and far right (American
Independent) parties, which also rarely collect more than one or two

One exception: the last two presidential races, where Perot has been
able to get into the high-single & low-double digits.  There is some
concern that Perot's candidacy may have altered the outcome in the last
two elections (some say intentionally).  This raises a concern of mine:
that a minor candidate (particularly one posing as a centrist) can not
only alter the outcome of a race, but reduce any incentive for the major
parties to compete for the middle-ground.  I am as concerned about this
as I am about overcoming the two-party duopoly.

Runoff would address this last concern of mine, but would require
partisan primary elections to remain in place.  Otherwise you could have
a situation like:

25% Democrat_A
24% Democrat_B
17% Republican_A
17% Republican_B
17% Republican_C

where the runoff would be between two Democrats.

Note that since non-partisan races -- including the Santa Clara County
elections -- have no primary, they would potentially have the same
problem under Runoff, if there is a similar alignment of candidates.

Bart Ingles

(end of reply)

> It was suggested earlier that the motivation for IRO was to expose
> the rankings. Maybe this should be a criterion for our list:
> Proposed criterion: ballots express rankings.
> I believe that in some circumstances (e.g., UK) such rankings would
> lead to pressure for further reform. Worthwhile, or what?
> > ... This is an example, then, of where IRO violates the
> > 1st Choice Criterion, which says that there should never be
> > a need for someone to not vote his favorite in 1st place.
> You seem to think that the 'correct' candidate always makes it to the
> runoff. Not in the UK they wouldn't: Runoff would not in practice
> meet this criteria: IRO often would! (But what about Santa Clara?)
> > In these examples, Runoff does a better
> > job of electing the CW than IRO does.
> And in the examples that you think are typical, but not world-wide!
> Cheers.
> --------------------------------------------------
> Sorry, but apparently I have to do this. :-(
> The views expressed above are entirely those of the writer
> and do not represent the views, policy or understanding of
> any other person or official body.

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