Monday, August 11, 2003

And the numbers keep rising... The 155 number I posted below (and that was used in most of the press reports) is already out of date. Although that number came from the Secretary of State's office after the filing deadline, it now appears that some of the counties were slow in getting their numbers to Sacramento.

The state now reports 193 candidates filed, with 89 completed (the other 104 are still having signatures verified, or their checks haven't cleared yet).

So, with at least 100 or so candidates on the ballot, it may be possible for the "winning" candidate to be elected Governor of California with little more than 1% of the vote. More likely, it will be one of the big name candidates with somewhere between 25-35%, but the end is the same: a Governor with no mandate to govern. The winner enters office having been supported by a fraction of the people. Add to that the very real possibility that only 52% support the recall. That means the replacement governor will have gotten fewer votes than the recalled governor.

This whole situation could be avoided if California (and the US) would adopt IRV. IRV stands for Instant Run-off Voting. IRV systems allow for multiple candidate elections, while still guaranteeing that the winner will have at least 50% of the final vote, and that everybody's vote counts.

How IRV works is that rather than choosing a single candidate in a multiple candidate election, the voter selects their top three (or four, or whatever is allowed) and ranks them accordingly.

All the first-choice votes are tallied first. If no candidate manages to garner more than 50% of the vote, IRV eliminates the votes for the last place candidate and looks at the second choices on those ballots, adding them to the original totals. If there is still no clear winner, IRV does this again with each losing candidate, until one candidate hits the magic number for victory.

Of course, all this is done automatically on the first pass through the vote counting machines. No need for recounts, IRV guarantees a clear winner every time.

For example, if the election were held today, and if we had IRV, I might select Georgy Russell as my first choice candidate, Peter Miguel Camejo as my second choice, and Cruz Bustamante only third. (For the sake of this example, let's assume I'm a typical Californian, and not just a lone nut).

Assuming Georgy clearly lost, my vote would then be given to Camejo. If he failed to gather enough votes to be in the running, my vote would only then be given to Bustamante. My vote may, in the end, help elect the "mainstream" Democrat (who would then have at least 50% of the vote), but my preference for something more progressive would be noted, and Bustamante (if he wanted a second term) would have a mandate to govern from the left.

For more on IRV (from which the above was taken), please see "IRV to the Rescue."

A word or two about the polls: In this election they will be entirely useless. First of all, because this election is so unlike anything we have seen, there is no precedent to how to evaluate the information.

More importantly, they poll "likely voters", meaning those that records show voted in the last two elections. This is going to overcount some, and undercount others.

It will overcount the usual voters, because many are likely to be so put off by this circus that they choose not to vote. It will undercount those that have never voted before but will be energized by an actual choice of who to vote for besides the usual two idiots.

My prediction is that the second group (1st time voters) is going to outnumber the first group (disgusted voters). I still think the end result will be the same, Governator Arnold, but it's not based on the polls, it's based on the Minnesota experience with Jesse "The Mind" Ventura. That, and my sick sense of humor.

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