[EM] A simpler approval based way of replacing the CA jungle primary

Rob Lanphier robla at robla.net
Wed Aug 15 22:40:05 PDT 2018

Hi Robert,

Lots to think about here.  More inline:

On Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 11:39 PM robert bristow-johnson
<rbj at audioimagination.com> wrote:
> personally, i really dislike the California primary system that can
> potentially lock out a party from the general.  in fact, even though i
> dislike two-party hegemony as we have in the U.S., i actually believe
> that parties in politics can be and are a good thing (this doesn't mean
> that there aren't bad parties or bad leadership in any particular party).
> parties serve a useful purpose [...]

I think, up to this point, we largely agree.  I also dislike locking
out legitimate political parties, and I agree that political parties
provide useful mental shorthand for voters (even for wonks like
myself), but I'm willing to accept the risk of locking out candidates
and/or parties to achieve some of the goals from my earlier mail.
But, I agree, it's not good to lock out political parties (especially
important ones) from a general election.

>  [....] and, in my opinion, ballot access in the general election should
> depend solely on getting enough signatures and the state should recognize
> parties only to the extent of contract law to keep some faction in a
> party from undemocratically screwing the rest of their party.  but every
> party should be able to get candidates on the General Election ballot,
> providing they get enough valid signatures on the ballot petition.
> i don't think the General should be just between two candidates.

Hmmm...I think California made a respectable tradeoff.  Maybe not the
best solution, but I (for one) appreciate the simpler ballot.
Moreover, I suspect that reform of the primary election is going to be
way more viable than trying to make a change to the general election
procedures.  If the government-funded primary remains an open
competition between all candidates (not just an intra-party affair)
with an improved voting method (like approval, or range, or even a
system that is explicitly-designed to select the Condorcet-winner as
one of the two candidates) and the general election is a final runoff
between two finalists, isn't that an acceptable compromise?  Or is it
a non-negotiable belief that all parties should get a candidate in the
general election?

> and both the Primary and General Election should be decided with
> Ranked-Choice Voting using a Condorcet-compliant method (either
> Ranked-Pairs or Schulze) for the single-winner races.  STV or IRV is
> still sucky.

I've been making a point of trotting out my Perl Journal article from
1996 (<https://robla.net/1996/TPJ>) at times like these, so as to
credibly confirm my shared desire for a Condorcet-compliant system.  I
think that after 22 years or so of an uncompromising push for
Condorcet-compliance, I'm about ready to compromise.  There are many
that argue that a well-implemented Approval system will pick the
Condorcet winner the vast majority of elections.  That seems credible
to me.

We agree, though:  IRV is sucky.  Standard STV seems inferior to
CPO-STV (though for filling a large-enough pool of seats, it seems

> for Ranked-Choice voting, the number of candidates appearing on
> the ballot should not greatly exceed the number of ranking levels.
> when San Francisco has 20 candidates and 3 ranking levels, someone who
> voted their heart's select which included none of the real contenders
> will feel disenfranchised when they found out that the contender they
> hated the most wins and they didn't vote for the second-place finisher
> to oppose that hated winner.

Yup.  I was happy with the 2018 outcome, but I talked to at least one
activist who abhorred the idea of selecting any of the three leading
candidates.  I think one of the big problems with San Francisco's RCV
is that this would have been considered an invalid ballot:

[1] [2] [3]
[ ] [x] [ ] Fringe candidate FCA
[ ] [x] [ ] Fringe candidate FCB
[ ] [ ] [ ] Mainstream candidate MCA
[ ] [x] [ ] Fringe candidate FCC
[ ] [ ] [x]  Mainstream candidate MCB
[ ] [ ] [x]  Mainstream candidate MCC
[x] [ ] [ ]  Fringe candidate FCD
[ ] [ ] [ ]  Fringe candidate FCE

i.e. prefers FCD, finds FCA, FCB, and FCC acceptable, and will
tolerate MCB or MCC, and believes that MCA is worse than just about
everyone else on the ballot (including most of the fringe candidates).
However, voters were only allowed to mark exactly one candidate per
column.  Just about all Condorcet-compliant ranked tally options don't
have a problem with tie ballots, and of course, score voting has no
problem with ties, but IRV can't deal with this.

>  but the way to make this happen is not to
> put in 20 ranking levels, what is needed is sufficiently strict ballot
> access law that makes it harder to get on the ballot.  but not so hard
> that only one or two can meet that requirement.

California has done a lot to make ballot access stricter.  That's just
made it so that:
1.  Working in downtown San Francisco is awful, because there is
*always* a paid signature gatherer between the train stop and work
(year-round, every year)
2.  Frequently, the only candidates/initiatives that make it to the
ballot are the ones with big money backing them.
3.  There are rules that make it easy for an official to declare a
ballot petition invalid.

I personally didn't mind that incumbent Dianne Feinstein had 31
opponents running against her for her U.S. Senate seat.  I just wish
we had a better method for picking the two candidates that would went
on to the general election.

> and, i think that the law should allow a candidate that loses in a primary
> or caucus to have some time after the primary to gather signatures to
> run as an independent candidate.

Getting rid of FPTP in the general election is insanely hard.  Worse,
the IRV folks have way more momentum than people who like better
systems.  There's only one way that FPTP is an acceptable system, and
that is if there are only two candidates.  My proposals don't
guarantee that there are only two, but I think they make it rare
enough to be an acceptable risk.

> what i am still unsure of is what New York does.

Ditto.  Whatever it is, it's weird.  :-)

> ballot access is weird.  in Vermont, because lawmakers didn't anticipate
> this problem, a 14-year-old kid is running for governor and appears on
> the Dem party primary ballot.  ya gotta be at least 18 to vote, but you
> need not be that to run.  ain't that weird?

heh....that and this was apparently the first election that his dad
voted in  :-/

p.s. Kristofer, I read the Green-Armytage/Tideman paper; more on that later...

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