Mon 30 Oct 2017 7:36PM

Star Voting and Primaries

SW Sara Wolf Public Seen by 381

One of the best things about STAR Voting is that it's accurate with any number of candidates and so you don't need a primary. Skipping the primary shortens the election season and saves tons of time and money for both the voters/taxpayers and the candidates which in turn can make running more accessible and help to start to level the playing field.

On the other hand there are times you might want a primary and if so it's totally an option. As Stephano asked on the Equal Vote comment section, "Question: Suppose an alternative voting system (like STAR*) does get implemented somewhere. Once people realize the election is no longer a lesser-of-two-evils vote (i.e., single Democrat vs. single Republican) and the field is much more open, a LOT of new contenders might enter the race: nonpartisan candidates, minor-party candidates, multiple candidates from each major party, and so on, none of whom need to survive a primary election to appear on the general ballot.

Voters could be faced with a bewildering multitude of questionable choices; this won’t endear them to the new system, and might even put the new system in danger of repeal. To keep SRV elections manageable for the electorate, should election authorities raise the bar for who appears on the ballot, to filter out all but the most serious, competent, and generally viable?"

So what do you think? Are there situations where we want a primary and if so when and how should that be applied?

*STAR Voting is the new name for Score Runoff Voting, specifically using a 0-5 scale. STAR stands for Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff)


William WAUGH Tue 31 Oct 2017 4:49AM

No need for a primary. A plethora of new candidates is not a problem.


Serena Johnston Tue 31 Oct 2017 3:26PM

A recent exchange with a Dem around closed vs open primaries showed their position out in the open - mainly, Green Party (and other minor parties) can go ahead and choose their candidates in nominating conventions, so they don't "need" a primary. My reply to that is if We The People are paying our taxes to put on a closed primary, many taxpayers are paying for something in which they cannot participate. I agree, no need for a primary, parties can have nominating conventions or put up a plethora of candidates for the same position in a final election. It would save time and money.


Adam Zielinski Wed 1 Nov 2017 12:45AM

I'm definitely against creating a high bar for access to the general election ballot. This would likely freeze out third party and independent candidates, and undermine one of the main reasons for supporting Star Voting in the first place.
But I also think there is a real danger of a lot of voters being turned off by a super long list of candidates for any given election. So that is why I do like primaries, because it is the only democratic way to weed out the also rans and narrow the field down to a more manageable level for voters to focus in on the best candidates.

But the only way to have primaries in a fair way is for every party to run their own primary or nominating convention and then forward one or two candidates each to the general election. Either all party primaries should receive taxpayer financing, or none should. Same with conventions. No separate rules for "major" and "minor" parties. You either qualify as a party or not, and the bar should be set at what the existing rules are now for "minor" parties.


William WAUGH Thu 2 Nov 2017 2:43PM

"I'm ... against creating a high bar for access to the general election ballot. ... "

I join you in standing against such a high bar.

"But I also think there is a real danger of a lot of voters being turned off by a super long list of candidates for any given election."

This can be solved. Permit the voter to mark on the ballot a score to give to "all others". This score would be applied to the candidates the voter didn't specifically score by name. The "all others" entry would save the voter the effort of marking individually the candidates who never drew the voter's interest or notice. I would recommend that voters apply the lowest possible score to "all others", as the category could include a racist.

In our daily lives we are surrounded by noise. Everyone has her own way to go about filtering the inputs. As the filtering techniques apply to other areas of stimulation (e. g. Keeping Up With the Kardashians), they apply to the messages about candidates for office. Voters can find interesting candidates to consider supporting, by multiple methods, including but not limited to using Internet search engines to find candidates who talk about the issues that matter most to the voters, and receiving referrals from trusted like-minded people. There should of course be an official web site listing the candidates who turned in the 100 signatures and including the candidates' own statements of their positions and qualifications.


Clay Shentrup Wed 1 Nov 2017 6:10AM

But there are other ways to constrain the list to something reasonable. You could require the candidates get 100 signatures from the voting public or something. Just a minimal threshold of effort that weeds out unserious options. A primary seems like a pretty heavy-handed solution.


Chris Callan-Hinsvark Fri 3 Nov 2017 3:15AM

I don't think it would be a major problem. However, if you really wanted a primary then I'd say run it just like you would the election, but instead of the run-off choosing just one candidate it would choose a preselected number of the highest scored candidates. Those candidates would then be on the general ballot for election. Raising the bar for candidates would likely cause more concern around a new voting system. Besides, a shorter election season would be a big bonus for a lot of voters.


Sara Wolf Fri 3 Nov 2017 10:02PM

Remember that over 43% of the people don't affiliate with any party. I'd like a system that doesn't exclude them from the primary process. If we don't have a unified, publicly funded, and non-exclusionary STAR Voting primary the parties will do their own, separately, and this will exclude the biggest group of voters by default. The candidates preferred by these voters might run Independent, but they also might run as any number of other parties. In my case I might vote Democrat, Green, Progressive, Independent, Working Families, Libertarian maybe? ... shouldn't I get a vote too, regardless which party they pick?

On the other hand I do see big advantages from eliminating the low turnout primary in most races, when there aren't a ton of candidates.


William WAUGH Sat 4 Nov 2017 11:48PM

"On the other hand there are times you might want a primary..." -- What for?


William WAUGH Sat 4 Nov 2017 11:51PM

If the point of having one or more primaries (open or closed) is to reduce the list to make contemplating it easier for when people are getting ready for the general election, how does it help, given that the people if they are politically interested are still going to have to contemplate the longer list for their primary?


Mark Frohnmayer Sun 5 Nov 2017 6:33PM

"how does it help, given that the people if they are politically interested are still going to have to contemplate the longer list for their primary?"

Hammer, meet head of nail.

After petitioning the Unified Primary in 2014, I became firmly persuaded by the opponents of primary reform that publicly-funded primaries for state and local elections are just a REALLY BAD IDEA:
* Primaries artificially extend the length of the election cycle, which fatigues voters and costs candidates more money (meaning they are more beholden to funders).
* Elections are expensive - running two of them every cycle is a waste of public dollars.
* Primaries turn out a different and less representative electorate than shows up at the general election. This means that the eventual choices we get are filtered by a non-representative sub-population first. As Boss Tweed famously proclaimed, "I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating."
* Primaries were created to give voters the nominee choice in a two-party dominated election system created by plurality voting. STAR Voting doesn't have this defect.
* Talking about changing the primary system now, particularly to a non-partisan open system, will create opposition from political parties who believe the own the concept. If we can divorce non-partisan elections from the primary system by using STAR Voting for such races in the November general election, it will become obvious to the voters that the May election is purely for the benefit of eliminating choices from consideration before the whole populace has a chance to vote.
* The issue of "too many candidates on the ballot" is a non-issue. Portland had 20 mayoral candidates in a top-two style regular election last cycle. The idea that the general election voter needs a pre-filter by the politically savvy is an insult to the general electorate.


Clay Shentrup Sun 5 Nov 2017 6:42PM

Yeah I agree with Mark.


Sara Wolf Sun 5 Nov 2017 7:18PM

Mark has really good points and I agree with them. I'm all for our legislation as we have it written for county! It's a non-issue for smaller non-partisan races. ... Still, I have a few reservations looking forward. I'm not saying I want to have primaries with STAR for some races, but I think it's worth talking about.

The hitch is that even if we skip the primary and don't include it, the parties will still do it on their own. If there is going to be a primary don't we want it done right? I do think now is a good time to think ahead as for me the Multnomah and Lane County reforms are a model for future more far reaching legislation. When we go for state we need to have this worked out. For me as an Independent and for the roughly 1/2 the country that isn't stoked on the existing parties, I think that leaving candidate selection up to parties without including swing voters is a colossal mistake. One look at the news these days tells you that much. If we don't have a multi-winner unified primary with all voters allowed to pick whoever they like best the parties will do primaries themselves and likely continue to botch things up royally like they did last election season.

I'm a design nerd. I've done enough Permaculture and other design work to know that sometimes the endgame design effects the first steps. Visualization -> Catylization -> Manifestation.


William WAUGH Tue 7 Nov 2017 3:35PM

"The hitch is that even if we skip the primary and don't include it, the parties will still do it on their own."

This is only a problem for the parties themselves, not for their opponents (us). If the general election is fair, we shall be able to support our favorite candidates.


Clay Shentrup Sat 11 Nov 2017 6:51PM

The hitch is that even if we skip the primary and don't include it, the parties will still do it on their own.

I don't see the problem with this. If "Bernie Sanders" doesn't get the endorsement of the Democratic Party, he can safely run in the general anyway.

The added press from being in the primary goes a long way for building momentum for the general.

I don't follow. If there's no official primary, then you're just talking about the press from the parties having their "endorsement elections". This kind of thing happens right now in San Francisco under IRV. E.g. the Harvey Milk Democratic Club has endorsement elections, and the candidates who win them get a boost.

There are all kinds of ways for people to help advance their political views. They can form parties and do endorsement elections, or form political clubs and have endorsement elections, or fund PACs or go knock on doors. What's special about having "political parties doing endorsement elections" that it requires government intervention?


Clay Shentrup Sun 5 Nov 2017 7:26PM

@sarawolf Hey where's the legislation? Can I read it?

I do wonder if it should be written so as to implement RRV, as a paean to PR advocates. That is, if multi-member districts went into effect, RRV would immediately be active. Unnecessary complexity, or olive branch?


Sara Wolf Sun 5 Nov 2017 8:01PM

People really want PR! It's definitely dominating the conversation and driving RCV right now all up and down the west coast and in BC. Let's start another thread on that. I think that's the thing to do if we were running STAR in Portland since city council's at large elections could be a great test place to use PR.

The ballot text is linked from here. Click where it says Lane and Multnomah in the 2nd paragraph. http://www.equal.vote/reform


Sara Wolf Tue 7 Nov 2017 8:23PM

No. It's an advantage for the major parties and a problem for swing voters. There is a reason that candidates and the primary season is currently so drawn out. The added press from being in the primary goes a long way for building momentum for the general. Thus, candidates that aren't included in that debate process are at a real disadvantage. I'd prefer if if there were no primaries at all, and I'm fine with primaries for all, collectively with a fair system like STAR, but having primaries for some and not others is not ideal.

If this is a necessary stepping stone I get it. We are working on a staged plan. But we should at least recognize if some people will benefit more than others.


William WAUGH Wed 8 Nov 2017 9:51PM

<< The added press from being in the primary goes a long way for building momentum for the general. >>-- The press! The press! I concede your point. So maybe what to campaign for is that no party should receive any privileges. No public support for a primary for just that party, and no ballot access with lower barrier than other candidates.


Sara Wolf Sun 12 Nov 2017 5:29AM

For me, I'd like to vote for my favorite candidate as early on as possible, especially if they are in a primary or caucus or something. I have no idea what party they might run under at this point (fledgling parties forming left and right ideally) so making it so that voters have to pick a party before they know who they support sucks. Think independent. Does that make sense?


Chris Callan-Hinsvark Tue 14 Nov 2017 2:44AM

"Political parties doing endorsement elections" requires government intervention because it uses public funds while requiring voters to be part of a party in order to participate. When I first registered to vote I didn't choose a party because I didn't feel drawn to one. But after not being able to vote in the primaries I choose a party so I could be a part of the early candidate selection process. This mechanic that forces voters into parties in order to take part in the primary is very unfair to unaffiliated candidates and independent voters and is a large part of the system feeling rigged. People should join parties because they believe in their platforms and candidates not just so they can participate in a primary and exercise their right to vote.