[EM] Party-based top two with approval

Rob Lanphier robla at robla.net
Wed Feb 28 22:24:20 PST 2018

Hi folks,

The top two jungle primary system we use in California has a lot of folks
on edge.  The worry among Democrats and Republicans is that, in some
districts, Democrats fear that we'll split the vote and end up with two
Republicans.  Republicans fear splitting the vote and ending up with two
Democrats in the general election.

One possible alternative that seems more robust to me: for each office,
have a ballot as follows:

For Representative from [District X]:

Your preferred party:
[ ] Republican
[ ] Democratic
[ ] Libertarian
[ ] Green
[ ] Socialist

Candidate(s) you approve of:
[ ] Aaaaa (Republican)
[ ] Bbbbb (Republican)
[ ] Ccccc (Democrat)
[ ] Ddddd (Democrat)
[ ] Eeeee (Socialist)
[ ] Ffffff (Libertarian)

The candidate election would be approval based.  The single candidate with
the highest approval rating (regardless of party affiliation) would be
guaranteed to make it to the general election.  The ballots would also be
divided by party preference, such that each party's preferred candidate
would be declared the party nominee.  The party with the most votes would
be able to choose whether they want to advance their nominee to the general
election.  If they opt out (or if their top choice is the same as the
overall approval winner), then the next party gets to choose, until a
second candidate is chosen.

As an example, let's say we have 100 people voting with the ballot above.
We end up with this:

Aaaaa  45 votes (by 30 Republicans and 5 Libertarians and 10 Democrats)
Bbbbb  20 votes (by 15 Republicans and 5 Libertarians)
Ccccc  60 votes (by 35 Democrats, 15 Republicans, 5 Socialist, 5 Green)
Ddddd  50 votes (by 30 Democrats, 10 Socialists, 10 Green)
Eeeee  45 votes (by 10 Socialists, 30 Democrats, 5 Green)
Ffffff   30 votes (by 15 Libertarians, 15 Republicans)

The party split:
30 Republican
35 Democratic
15 Libertarian
10 Green
10 Socialist

Ccccc would advance as the general winner.  The Democrats have the most
votes, so they have the option of advancing their top vote getter.
Aaaaa 20
Bbbbb 0
Ccccc 35
Ddddd 30
Eeeee 30
Ffffff 0

The self-identified Democrats also pick Ccccc, so we move to the next party.

There are 30 voters who self-identified as Republicans for this election.
Their approved nominee:
Aaaaa 30
Bbbbb 15
Ccccc 15
Ddddd 0
Eeeee 0
Ffffff 15

Among those 30 voters who self-identify as Republican, Aaaaa is the
winner.  We now have two candidates to face off in the general; the rest
are eliminated.

What is peculiar about this contrived example is that Ddddd has a higher
approval rating than Aaaaa.  However, Ddddd would lose the "instant
primary" for the Democratic nomination to Ccccc in this example.

I've been mulling this over in my head for the past 2-3 days, and it seems
like a way of getting the "top two" aspect of jungle primaries while also
forcing a little diversity via party choice.  In this particular example,
the 65 voters that declared themselves either Republicans or Democrats
approve of at least one candidate that advances to the general election
(and additionally, another 5 Libertarians, 5 Socialist, and 5 Green also
approve of one or both of the candidates, for a total of 80 voters seeing
an approved candidate advance).  If Ddddd had advanced instead (who had a
higher overall approval), it would have been only 70 voters seeing an
approved candidate advance (since 15 Republicans and 15 Libertarians didn't
approve of either choice).

Turning the party choice into a jungle primary means that Democrats and
Republicans aren't *guaranteed* to get the top two slots.  It could mean
than a Democrat and a Socialist get the top two.  It could also mean that a
Republican and a Libertarian get the top two.

Does this seem vaguely plausible as a system?  Is there some way of gaming
this system I'm not thinking of?  Are there plausible scenarios where over
50% disapprove of both candidates who advance?  Are there any "false flag"
attacks (i.e. for a "Democrat" to declare themself "Republican" to screw up
their nomination), or would the balancing act be too complicated for most
voters to try?

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