, a (sort of) brief explanation of why Instant Runoff Voting totally rules and should be adopted everywhere
The 2017 Minneapolis Mayoral Election had 17 candidates on the ballot. 9 of them were for the Democratic Party (it's called Democratic Farmer Laborer up here), 1 of those was the incumbent, a couple of those we'll get to in a minute. The remaining candidates were a hodge-podge of parties: the Socialist, the Libertarian and several made up parties, including "Rainbows, Butterflies, Unicorns" party which isn't at all infuriating. There was no Republican on the ballot, although L.A. Nik said he was running as a Republican but forgot to mention that when he put himself on the ballot because, and I'll let you in on a little secret here, L.A. Nik is pretty dumb.
Aaaaaaaaaanyway, the major issue for this specific election was about the Minneapolis Police shooting people. Specifically the separate incidents wherein Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, and Justine Diamond were shot dead by police. There's plenty that could be said about this, but I wanna stay on the topic of Minneapolis mayoral candidates, so...
All of these shootings happened under during the term of our current mayor Betsy Hodges, (a Democrat in the current model),there were questions raised in her handling of the police department. Eventually, Hodges "asked" the Minneapolis police chief to resign. But, nobody's really satisfied with the changes to the MPD currently. This includes the Blue Lives Matter crowd, as Betsy's most frequent response to police violence has been strong statements condemning specific actions, which they see as a sign of weakness.So here's where we introduce Tom Hoch
, a Downtown Rich PersonTM
who is retiring as the CEO of the Hennepin Theater Trust and is now looking for something else to do. So what abouuuuuuutttt.... Mayor? Hoch runs as 1 of 9 DFL candidates in the race, has no trouble fundraising about $800k for the election, turning it into the most expensive mayoral election in the city's history. Tom Hoch, who is gay and running as a DFL candidate, definitely
isn't a Republican, despite what his voting record, donation record, and the words that he says would lead you to believe. No, he's simply the "Law & Order" candidate. Because crime in Minneapolis has spiraled out of control. He's the man to fix it. Other candidates are (to coin a phrase for probably the first time) "soft on crime". Also Tom Hoch has absolutely no idea where all these suspiciously funded hitjobs are coming from. Dishonest Facebook ads? Misleading websites? Dunno what that is, he certainly never paid for them though.
On Betsy's other side is a candidate named Jacob Frey, a Democrat in the more traditional Midwestern sense (Teamsters, AFSCME, other employee unions) who makes Police Reform his central issue: A failure in police/community relations is the fault of the mayor, and Jacob's got himself nearly a million dollars to keep saying that.
Another DFL Candidate, Raymond Dehn (a Democrat more in the Bernie model) takes it a step further: Police shouldn't have guns. Take guns away from cops. The media asks him if he wants to retract that statement and he tells them to fuck themslves. He's a progressive who has some unkind words to say about our current mayor, but not as many as Nekima Levy-Pounds, former President of the Minneapolis NAACP who stated that Betsy Hodges is the
problem with the city.
So there's the 5 major candidates, whom I've drawn in broad strokes, because I want to take us all to the actual result. You can either look at This table on Wikipedia
or this animation
to get a picture of how the thing works, but...
IR Voting tries to declare a winner, and it will eliminate losers until it does so. Each time a loser is eliminated, IR goes through those ballots and gives those votes to 2nd (or 3rd) choices. And then repeats the process again and again until either...
- It finds a candidate with a winning number of votes (50% + 1)
- It's eliminated every other candidate but one
Here's what Round 1
|Christopher Robin Zimmerman (Libertarian)||literally 1 vote|
Okay okay, so this looks like a pretty much set race. And in round 1, when we take out everyone with <2% of the vote, it's still pretty much the same.
At this point though, we have to remove someone substantial from the list, so the next round removes Nekima and distributes her votes.
This changes the race considerably. Dehn eats up more Nekima votes, and all rest get shuffled around to anyone who isn't Tom Hoch. Now Hoch is on the bottom, and needs to be eliminated.
Really, if there was one consistent truth in this whole election, it's that no matter what
, Betsy Hodges deserves to be in 3rd place. Still without a winner yet, so let's see where her votes go...
In this particular case, the system never got to it's goal of 50%+1, but it kept eliminating candidates until it found a winner. Jacob Frey is the new mayor-elect of Minneapolis, and got there in a really crowded field with lot of different takes on the same issue. With negative campaigning and dark money being a thing that happened in this election, it wasn't able to create the idea of a "Splitter" candidate. Nobody was bullied into going against their voting impulses because you have to vote against a bastard. You made 3 choices and the system picks from there. I'm not gonna say this completely fixes the idea of smear campaign politics, but it does a lot to help.
For the most dramatic example of this, I want to show you the results for Minneapolis, Ward 3
. For this particular election, there were four candidates.
- Ginger Jentzen (Socialist)
- Steve Fletcher (Democrat)
- Tim Bildsoe (Democrat)
- Samantha Pree-Stinson (Green)
Early results had a lot of people calling the election for Ginger, who had a commanding lead in the first round.
However, when the Green candidate got removed...
|Ginger Jentzen||3,598 (+301)|
|Steve Fletcher||3,103 (+394)|
|Tim Bildsoe||2,734 (+182)|
...those 2nd choice votes were distributed more-or-less equally, rather than the expectation I'd have, which is that the Socialist would be most of the 2nd choices for the Green Candidate. But this means that when you remove another candidate...
|Steve Fletcher||4,861 (+1,758)|
|Ginger Jentzen||3,844 (+246)|
The people who voted for the one democrat voted for the other democrat afterwards and Steve beats Ginger handily. I fully expected her to win, but that's not how people voted.
One of the most constructive parts of this process is reŽnforcing the idea that people don't fit neat little stereotypes. A lazy commentator would say "All Nekima votes will go for Dehn, since they're both involved in the Black Lives Matter movement" and be very proud with their rightness until you actually look at the results and realize that, while more votes went to Dehn than any other candidate, they were spread a lot
more evenly than that, and more
of those votes went to Betsy Hodges than to Frey and Hoch combined.
We like to build really simplistic strawmen to describe most voters but, when you give them honest-to-god choices, people are a lot more complex than that.
In addition to all that, you still get to have silly candidates running and the system works well enough to deal with them appropriately. They can run (which they should) and lose (which they should). If the silly candidates fuck up the system, the system itself is brittle.
In summary: Instant Runoff voting is totally the best, and all elections should be done this way.
(and for the record, Betsy Hodges was my
third choice too)