October 2008

Telluride takes the lead in IRV election reform

By Art Goodtimes

INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING … or Ranked Choice Voting, as it is also known, is an election reform that is finding significant purchase in progressive jurisdictions around the country. The City and County of San Francisco adopted it several years ago, and Santa Fe overwhelmingly approved it this past spring … But it’s not just progressive governments that like IRV. It is used internally by the Utah Republican Party. Why? Because it saves money. Instead of a second runoff vote after a first election to get to a majority winner, it lets people pick their favs beforehand, and then calculates who got the most votes … Another asset is that it means that the winning candidate is supported by a majority, not a simple plurality. Instead of people elected to office with less than 50% support, IRV guarantees true majority rule … Under current election rules, using bullet voting (voting for one candidate in a multi-seat race), a group of voters can tilt the odds towards their candidate and skew what the majority really wants. IRV makes that strategy futile. People vote their several favorites, and then if their first choice doesn’t get enough votes, their vote swings to their second choice, or their third choice, etc. … It also does away with the spoiler effect in a winner-take-all system. You can vote for someone you really like but doesn’t have much of a chance, and then list the more likely winner that you favor as your second choice. That way, your vote for the unlikely winner isn’t lost, it goes to the second candidate you prefer, if your first vote doesn’t come up with enough votes to get a majority … Thanks to the tireless work of Rep. John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), Colorado has adopted a pilot IRV program that allows communities to use IRV. So it’s an election reform that we will be seeing more of in this state. Kefalas headed up a task force that reviewed numerous election reforms, and IRV was the one that floated to the top of the pile after a year of meetings and review … IRV is also used for statewide judicial vacancies in the red state of North Carolina, and NC just approved a pilot program to allow cities to experiment with IRV, as Colorado has done. Cary, NC already took up that offer and had a very successful IRV election … Plus, IRV is currently in use for overseas and military ballots in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Louisiana … In a recent op-ed column, Tad Daley, JD, PhD, Writing Fellow International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Nobel Peace Laureate, explained why IRV could revitalize democracy in Los Angeles and more especially in Los Angeles County <www.opednews.com/articles/No- Instant-Runoff-Voting---by-Tad-Daley- 080610-769.html> … And for more info on IRV, go to <www.fairvote.org/?page=19> … I’m really excited that Telluride is getting out ahead of the pack in election reform and is considering adopting IRV in its municipal elections.

OBAMA IN JUNCTION … Although I’d heard Sen. Barack Obama was coming to Grand Junction to speak last month (a historic moment for the Western Slope — to receive that kind of attention from a national presidential candidate), I had a conflict. San Miguel County has been working to get back public access to the Greager Road on the west side of Lone Cone, and an important meeting with the Dolores County Commissioners was scheduled for that morning (their cooperation is essential on the matter, and the wealthy landowner involved had set up a meeting to try and convince the folks in Dove Creek to step away from working with San Miguel County, so we wanted to be there to continue arguing for putting that important Forest Service access back into the public realm) … But, at the last minute, 8: 15 a.m., we found out that the landowner’s attorney had cancelled the meeting. So, I jumped into my Honda Civic and rushed up to Junction the back way via Gateway. I was an hour late. I didn’t have a ticket. So I had no expectation of even getting into the event, let alone seeing Obama. I even had to wait 10 minutes for a coal train sitting motionless at the river crossing in Whitewater … But, magically, I didn’t get lost taking a shortcut to Cross Orchards (always dangerous for me, taking “shortcuts”). I found a parking place just a block away from the rally (with 6,000 supporters and several hundred “Nobama” demonstrators in attendance, another miracle). And most incredibly, I walked up to the gate and


On the Way to Gateway's Palisade

Move over Memphis
the Nile’s got nothing on
the Dolores River Canyon road.

Cliffs sheer as temple walls.
Rough-cut. Alive with
gorgons & gargoyles.

The sandstone mysteries
of earth air fire & water’s
mud red Sphinxes.

there was my old friend Gabe Lifton- Zoline (Obama’s chief organizer for the Western Slope!). Gabe whisked me through long long lines, through security, and voilà “backstage” to a reception line for Barack himself (flanked by a squad of Secret Service shades). I had no time to think of clever words and here was this tall, handsome national figure warmly shaking my hand, and reciting his reception line mantra, “I’m VERY happy to meet you.” I mumbled how I was one of the Greens for Obama, and happily happened to be wearing a bright green t-shirt with a “08 Obama” license plate logo. Barack smiled, in agreement. And, then, playfully he stepped back, and announced to the small knot of his entourage, some of them snapping pictures, “For a minute there, I thought it was ZZ Top,” looking at me and grinning. Most laughed, as did I. And then Barack swung his left arm around and gave me a hug, before moving on to the last in a short line … Here was no political automaton. Here was a real person, playfully interacting with a stranger, teasing and demonstrating affection all at once. Who would not be charmed? … Afterwards, with a clear view of speakers from the back of the impromptu stage, I watched Gov. Bill Ritter rally the crowd; Sen. Ken Salazar declaim, “I’m here because I believe. You’re here because you believe. The future of the world is in your hands!;” and Barack, masterfully giving his stump speech, without notes, explaining, in reaction to the news of the current financial crisis on Wall St., “Instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up.” He called the current stock market dive “the worst financial crisis since the Depression.” … Pretty strong words. Very inspiring words. The cheering hullabaloo of a large Western Slope crowd … As all the signs said, “Change We Need.”

WEEKLY QUOTA … “All authority belongs to the people... In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief with chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson