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Arizona High School Student Files Paperwork for Initiatives for IRV and Easier Ballot Access

Published on April 29, 2008, by in General.

On April 22, Emerson French, a high school student in Tempe, Arizona, filed the paper work to launch two statewide initiatives. One would implement Condorcet Voting in federal and state elections in Arizona, and the other would make it easier to qualify a new party for the ballot. Condorcet Voting, which virtually requires computers, provides that voters rank each candidate. The vote-counting system runs a two-way race between each possible pair of candidates; the winner is the candidate who wins all those hypothetical two-way matches.

Each initiative needs 153,365 valid signatures, due by July 3, so these initiatives are unlikely to qualify for the ballot. French says he hopes that supporters of these ideas will notice that the initiative has been pre-filed and will support them. Since French is 17 years old, he is not permitted to circulate his own initiatives, until he turns 18 in May 2008.

16 Responses

  1. Which High School?

    His current residential address?

    The official address on the petition[s]?

  2. I-21-2008 Much better service [Arid Zona] than Ahnold Schwartz En Faker’s California:

    I-21-2008 Arizonans for Condorcet Ranked Voting 200810135 April 22, 2008 July 3, 2008 153,365
    Arizonans for Condorcet Ranked Voting
    c/o Emerson French
    16208 South 1st Avenue
    Phoenix, AZ 85045
    480-899-1863
    Emerson French, Applicant & Chairman
    This initiative aims to make Arizona elections more democratic by instituting ranked-choice voting in races with more than two candidates. This voting method asks voters to rank the candidates in order from the first, most-preferred choice to the least, and can be used for any candidate election. The majority winner of the election is calculated using voter preferences. Although everyone gets just one effective vote, it always counts, regardless of whether a preferred candidate prevails. Due to preferential ranks, no votes are “lost” from one candidate to another, so election results reflect the true wishes of the people.
    Click here for full text of initiative: PDF

    I-22-2008 Arizonans for Ballot Access Reform 200810136 April 22, 2008 July 3, 2008 153,365
    Arizonans for Ballot Access Reform
    c/o Emerson French
    16208 South 1st Avenue
    Phoenix, AZ 85045
    480-899-1863
    Emerson French, Applicant & Chairman
    This initiative aims to make Arizona elections more democratic by instituting ballot access reform. Proposed reforms make it easier for qualified candidates and parties to participate in elections, while instituting primary election requirements, and party viability requirements to ensure ballots aren’t lengthy. As a result, participation in elections will be more fair for all concerned.
    Click here for full text of initiative: PDF

  3. Kudos for attempting to get IRV instituted on the state level! I think that it is an important cog in electing humble servants who just want to uphold the Constitution, and I recommend that others also attempt in their own states. (I did think it was ironic how many scores of signatures would be needed, since it is just another hurdle to overcome in the process of giving government back to the people.)

  4. Fred Church Ortiz

    Possibly the next Richard Winger in the making?

  5. There is a bill winding its way through the Colorado legislature this spring, HB08-1378, which would allow limited experimentation with IRV in municipalities in Colorado.

    I think the bill should also allow experimentation with other voting systems, including Range and Approval, given the problems with IRV (favorite betrayal etc. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem says any ranked voting system will have problems, and Range and Approval are not ranked voting systems) and so I wrote the members of the first House committee to hear it. But the sponsors are enamored with IRV.

  6. This petition describes a member of the Condorcet family of voting methods. It might be the one called “Schwartz sequential dropping” or “beatpath”, but I’m not sure. In any case, it is not IRV.

    The petition also attempts to make this method apply to multi-seat elections, something that has never been done in practice. (It’s not clear to me that the theoretical rationale for the Condorcet criterion even applies to multi-seat elections, although some advocates have proposed multi-seat extensions.)

    In fact, as far as I know, the only use of any Condorcet method in public elections was in Marquette, a small city in northern Michigan, in the 1920s. That was the much easier to explain Nanson’s method.

    Condorcet methods have some fans, especially among those who believe that moderate centrists should always win, even when they are almost everyone’s second choice and almost no one’s first choice. Regardless of how one feels about that, all Condorcet methods are difficult for voters and election officials to understand and can encourage losers to question the legitimacy of the result when a different flavor of Condorcet would have elected them instead of the actual winner. These issues limit the use of Condorcet methods to mathematically sophisticated electorates, such as professional associations in mathematics, computer science and related fields.

    Finally, the initiative appears to mandate this Condorcet method for all elections, including state and federal. It would be better to start with local elections, and better to start by permitting alternative methods rather than requiring them. See, for example, Colorado House Bill 1378 introduced by John Kefalas. It has passed the House and is in the state Senate.

  7. More details on Arizona verder kind French:

    not flagged. [ Flag Message - Mark as Unread ]
    Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 17:14:38 -0700
    From: “Emerson French” Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
    Yahoo! DomainKeys has confirmed that this message was sent by gmail.com. Learn more
    To: donlake@sbcglobal.net
    Subject: initiatives

    Hi Mr. Lake–

    I just listened to your message, and I look forward to talking to you
    about my initiative. I’m curious as to whom you represent specifically
    just for my own information. I apologize for not leaving a voicemail
    message, but at the moment I am somewhat consumed by schoolwork. Here
    is some background information on me that you might find useful. You
    probably read that I go to McClintock High School and that am
    attending Oberlin College in the fall. My school interests are quite
    varied; I love humanities and sciences. For the past two years, I have
    been on the speech and debate team. Prior to that, I was an editor for
    the school newspaper. As far as the origins of my campaign go, I’ve
    been interested in politics for a long time, and due to the apathy of
    my fellow students, and people in the US generally compared to other
    democracies when it comes to politics and voting, I feel the strong
    need for activism. If you haven’t yet seen my campaign’s website, it’s
    at http://www.azvotereform.com. It needs to be updated since I re-filed the
    paperwork, but otherwise the majority of the information is still very
    accurate. I would love to talk with you further. I get home from
    school around 3:45. Sorry for not going into greater depth about the
    initiatives in this message, but I have a lot to do and focus on at
    the moment. You may call me at the same number where you left the
    phone message and I would be more than happy to speak with you
    further. Otherwise, you can of course email me at this address.

    Thanks,

    Emerson French

  8. Regarding any skepticism about these proposals, I will first say that I completely understand the concerns, and many, if not all of them, are valid ones. I do not disagree that IRV may be easier for some people to understand, and that the results of a Condorcet election could be quite different from those of an election that uses IRV.

    Despite this, everyone should keep in mind that both theoretically and in actuality, no voting system is perfect, nor does any voting system fit all possible demands or stresses that we place upon it.

    These, of course, are not justifications for using or not using any voting system. The reason I chose Condorcet over IRV is not due to a preference for centrism, although that might be the result of some elections. Rather, I chose Condorcet based on the general principle that a voter’s full set of preferences should be accounted for, rather than simply looking at a first choice. This reflects more of a reality about choices in my view.

    With regard to the complexity of the method, this is of course a concern, especially when it comes to legitimacy of elections. But in a sense, this is no different from the “black box” issues associated with the use of proprietary software programs for elections.

    Lastly, I acknowledge that this campaign will be difficult to pursue because it is state-wide, rather than local. But I think it can be successful regardless with enough exposure and volunteers.

  9. Emerson French,

    It sounds like IRV might be an acceptable method to you, although not your first choice. If that’s true, you might think about putting some of your obvious talent, knowledge and energy into a very winnable campaign for IRV in local elections that’s going on right in your backyard:

    http://fairvoteaz.org/category/better-ballot-glendale

    You could learn a lot about ballot measure campaigns and electoral reform that would be very helpful to you in building support over the longer term for Condorcet, if you continue to believe that’s the right way to go.

  10. National Chair Rodney Martin [Reform Party USA] has instructed me to tell Emerson French that the party is backing his efforts from a national and an Arid Zona perspective. Please feel free to put a RPUSA [www.reformpartyusa.us] ‘button’ on your web site http://www.azvotereform.com.
    Please feel free to contact reformers in Arizona, especially in Maricopa County and Yuma County.

  11. As Bob points out, French’s initiative is Condorcet voting — e.g., the system where the rankings are used to compare each potential pairing of candidates on each ballot to find out if there is is a candidate who theoretically would defeat all others if in one-on-one races with them,with a need to resolve ties where each candidate loses to at least one other candidate.

    Condorcet voting is better than what we have, but a tough political sell. Still, I applaud Emerson’s pluck and certainly will be interested to see what kind of reception he gets. As Bob points out, most active ranked voting activists in Arizona are focused on local drives for IRV and proportional voting.

    On Daniel Ong’s post, note that a Colorado task force last year closely examined many single-winner voting methods, including range and approval, along with proportional voting systems. It heard from me and leading advocates of range and approval. It decided to recommend moving forward with pilots for instant runoff voting and proportional voting. This echoes the results of study processes by the League of Women Voters in several states, which have recommended IRV and not recommended approval or other systems.

    I hope backers of other systems in general can focus on getting them used in more private elections as a start. IRV is now used by more than half of the nation’s top 30 universities (as rated by US News), for example. No university or college student elections uses approval, range or Condorcet (and in perhaps the most high profile use of approval in competitive elections, Dartmouth’s board of trustees seem to be moving to eliminating it after controversial results). Thus, the debate about their merits is on theoretical grounds, with these systems’ backers passionately arguing theory in a way that often is harshly negative about alternatives, but not grounded in real experience.

    And of course don’t forget proportional voting is much more the international norm in well-established democracies and the clearest roadmap to fair representation of political diversity. A lot of the debate over best single-winner systems misses this fundamental reality.

  12. Demo Rep

    IRV major defects example –

    Times are ROUGH and TOUGH — like 1860, 1932, 2000, 2004, 2008 The *middle* is very divided.

    34 H W S
    33 S W H
    16 W H S
    16 W S H

    99

    Place Votes Table

    1 2 3

    H 34 16 49 99
    S 33 16 50 99
    W 32 67 0 99

    99 99 99

    With IRV, W loses. H beats S 50-49.

    Head to head (Condorcet method) –
    W beats H 65-34
    W beats S 66-33

    W WINS.

    IF the first 2 place votes are *YES* votes (as in Approval Voting), then –

    H 50
    S 49
    W 99

    W WINS

    IF the Bucklin Method is used (add place votes to get a majority), then adding the place 1 and place 2 votes –

    H 50
    S 49
    W 99

    W WINS

    H Hitler, S Stalin, W George Washington (U.S.A. General in the 1775-1783 American Revolution and the first U.S.A. President in 1789-1797)

    IRV is super-dangerous since it ignores most of the data in a place votes table — regardless of the New Age mindless math MORONS hyping IRV in various places — especially for single offices.

    IRV WILL nominate / elect HITLER / STALIN type extremists — who will claim a mighty IRV majority *mandate* for their EVIL stuff — while defeating compromise candidates — especially for offices like President, Governor, Mayor, etc.

  13. And yet nations and cities that hold IRV elections are not having any of these alleged problems… Runoffs of cousre would have the exact same “problem,” but are used in nearly every nation electing their president.

  14. While the debate rages on =), for anyone interested, the website at http://www.azvotereform.com now has updated petitions and information, including a booklet some people might find useful. Just thought I would pass the word along.

  15. Demo Rep

    For any unaware folks —

    The ENTIRE election in the U.S.A. is totally EVIL and corrupt.

    1. UNEQUAL BALLOT ACCESS LAWS.
    2. MINORITY RULE GERRYMANDERS
    3. PLURALITY NOMINATIONS OF EXTREMISTS
    4. PLURALITY ELECTIONS OF THE LEFT/RIGHT EXTREMISTS.

    Result — ALL of the leftwing / rightwing accumulated laws and regs.

    Remedies -

    Uniform definition of Elector in all of the U.S.A.

    EQUAL ballot access for all candidates for the same office in the same area.

    P.R. for legislative body elections — Total Votes / Total Seats = EQUAL votes needed for each seat winner

    Approval Voting for executive/judicial offices.

    NOT exactly atomic physics.

  16. Demo Rep

    errata – The ENTIRE election system in the U.S.A. is totally EVIL and corrupt.

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