Saturday, February 21, 2009

Traditional runoff elections are more democratic even at UNC-CH!

General Election at UNC-CH:
8736 votes cast
Thomas Edwards had 41%
Jasmin Jones has 21%
presumably there were other candidates who had the other 38% of the vote

Runoff election
9513 votes cast - more than in the general election
Jasmin Jones had a real majority win - 51.3% to 48.7 for Edwards.

So let me see if I get this straight - at UNC, the runoff election not only had more turnout than the general election a week before, but the second place finisher in the general election beat out the first place finisher from the general election.

How would IRV have made this more democratic - except to give the students more time to "study"? In IRV, the first place finisher goes on to win the "instant" part of the runoff in about 99% of the elections. In traditional runoff elections, the second place finisher in the general election goes onto win 33% of the time.

Perhaps this was a good lesson in democracy for these students as they go forward in life?

Here are several things we can be certain of:

1) had there been an IRV election, more voters wouldn't have taken part in the election as they did in the runoff. 9513 votes in the runoff is more than 8736 in the general election.

2) with 4 other candidates in the election besides Edwards and Jones, it's possible that many other students would have voted for two of the other three candidates who weren't in the top two, and there votes wouldn't have been counted in a top two IRV election. At least all those people who showed up for the runoff cast really "meaningful" votes on their ballots.

3) there was a real majority winner that is simple and clear for all students to understand. The same cannot be said for the Cary IRV election - where even Don Frantz (who won the election) knows he didn't win by a 50% plus one vote majority as Cary voters were told would happen. Hell - even the NCSU students who voted to go with RCV for their student elections have a requirement for a threshold for the election and recognize that a majority might not be reached after all the ballots are exhausted - which might require a traditional runoff election to come up with a majority winner.

You cannot make the assumption that voters would have gone for Ms. Jones as #2 because the 4 other candidates supported her in the runoff precisely because those 4 other candidates didn't support Ms. Jones until AFTER the general election. Just like Vicki Maxwell garnered the majority of the support of the voters who cast 2nd and 3rd choice votes in Cary, she never got enough votes to overcome the margin Don Frantz had after the 1st round. That is exactly the problem that occurs in damn near every IRV race - the 1st column winner goes onto win because no one can overcome their initial lead.

Traditional runoff elections where the 2nd place finisher in the general election beats the 1st place general election leader 33% of the time is more democratic. That is a conclusion based on FACTS!

That is typically something that can't be done before the election - since you really only can make your 2nd and 3rd choices based on circumstances that might be different after the election DEPENDING ON THE FINISHING ORDER - something we hope we don't know before the election.

If you need to cast a second vote, you can decide who to vote for based on what is said after the 1st election. You never get that with IRV/RCV.

If Jasmine Jones had not decided to accept their platforms, they might have voted for the other guy - or they might have stayed home. But I think this is a good sign. With the Internet and text messaging and many other advances in communication, there is no excuse to claim that voter turnout is always lower in the traditional runoff. That is like saying that women won't vote because they couldn't vote 100 years ago. Times are changing, and many minority candidates embrace runoff elections instead of fearing them when they were a tool to lock them out of an election. Minority candidates like Jasmine Jones - an African American female.

The same thing happened in NC in two other 2007 municipal elections - one in Rocky Mount and another in Wilmington. In each one, an African-American candidate came from second place in the general election to beat the more favored white male candidate in a traditional runoff election that had greater turnout than the general election. This is also something that couldn't happen with IRV!

Chris Telesca

It’s Jones by a hair

249 votes decide president runoff election with unprecedented turnout

Blake Frieman and Elisabeth Gilbert, Staff Writers

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Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jasmin Jones knew it was close. The Board of Elections had just announced that only 249 votes separated the winner and loser in the student body president race.

So when she found out she had come back from a huge deficit in last week’s election to win the presidency in a runoff, Jones and her campaign staff jumped up in an explosion of cheers.

Jones received 51.3 percent of the record 9,513 votes cast — an unprecedented turnout.

Her opponent Thomas Edwards earned 48.7 percent.

Ryan Morgan, chairman of the Board of Elections, expressed the significance of such a large voter turnout for the next president’s upcoming work.

“Whoever wins will have an incredible mandate to get done what the students want,” Morgan said before the results were announced.

Jones’ victory comes a week after she received only about half as many votes as Edwards in the general election. He received 41 percent of the 8,736 total votes cast. Jones received 21 percent.

Jones now must assemble her cabinet, which includes the vice president, treasurer and committee chairmen. They will take office April 7.

Acknowledging last week that she would have to put in another long week of work, Jones also admitted that she was just happy to be in the runoff.

“I think we were out there more, longer and later,” Jones said Tuesday when asked about her additional campaigning efforts throughout the last week.

She said she felt it was her staff’s attitude that was a major factor in her victory.

“We stayed positive,” she said. “We just encouraged students to get out there and vote. It didn’t matter for who — just vote.”

Over the past week, she was a staple in the Pit. She and her staff wore their trademark neon visors and spawned many an impromptu dance battle.

While she said her campaign team put in a lot of work, they certainly were not alone in their efforts.

Jones garnered the unified support of all four of last week’s defeated candidates — Ron Bilbao, Michael Betts, Ashley Klein and Matt Wohlford — after they held a joint strategy meeting Saturday.

“I feel like their support was a large portion of our success,” Jones said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude.”

In multiple e-mails sent out to all students who voted in last week’s election, the quartet encouraged their original followers to vote for Jones the second time around.

They cited her openness to accept their platform points as an example of her ability to collaborate well with others, a trait they all agreed would be important for the next student body president to have.

“Honest to God, I can’t believe that actually worked. I can’t believe we actually pulled it off,” Bilbao said.

“She took down the machine. She took down the Terminator. It’s the David versus Goliath.”

Edwards was visibly shaken by the results but received a standing ovation from his campaign workers.

“Go finish my physics lab for tomorrow,” Edwards answered after the announcement, when asked what he intended to do next.

He said the results did not change his feelings about his campaign.

“I really think that we went into this thinking that we did everything that we could,” Edwards said.

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