Choice Voting is fairer way
for Seattle to elect City
April 13, 2003
If you had
the power to devise the fairest way to elect a nine-person
representative body for the city, would you create a system that
gives all nine seats to the political group that makes up a
bare majority of the voters?
Or would you want a council that
most closely mirrors the political and ethnic makeup of the entire
city? In other words, would you prefer a council in which the
political majority would elect the majority of the members but would
also include representatives of any political minority that could
unite a substantial portion of the city's voters?
We have the
power to improve the way we elect the City Council, and it is
not by dividing the city into nine "pork hungry" voting wards
in which the people who gerrymander the district boundaries often
have more to say about who wins than do the voters. Ward elections
are an old-style method that fostered Tammany Hall style cronyism,
and we don't need that in Seattle.
Dividing the city into
districts assumes that where the voter lives is the most important
factor in choosing a representative. Chances are that not everyone
in your block shares the same political point of view. Yet if the
city is split into individual districts, all voters in the district
will have to share the same representative. That's fine if you voted
for the winner but what about those who vote for the loser and have
no representative who thinks like them? Frequently district
elections don't even offer choices, just an incumbent.
Seattle's current at-large election system shares many of
the same faults as election by district: non-competitive elections
and 100 percent of the representation for the largest bloc of
voters, with none for the rest.
Fortunately there is a better
system. It's called Choice Voting. With Choice Voting the majority
wins only a majority of seats instead of everything, and political
or racial minorities win their fair share too -- without having to
gerrymander a single district. Voters who share a common concern, no
matter no how scattered geographically, can elect a representative
if enough of them join citywide.
Voters in Cambridge, Mass.,
have used Choice Voting to elect their City Council and school board
for more than 60 years. Cambridge elects all nine council members at
once and a candidate needs about 10 percent of the vote to win a
On the ballot, which offers many more choices
than does Seattle's, the voter indicates his favorite candidate. He
may stop there or go on to indicate second and third choices. If the
first choice doesn't receive enough votes to be elected, the vote
will not be "wasted." Instead, the second choice vote will be
counted. In this way, nearly everyone gets to have his or her one
vote count toward electing a favorite candidate.
Voting also: provides greater diversity of representation, works
equally well for partisan or non-partisan elections, could eliminate
the need for city primary elections, allows voters more meaningful
choices, reduces campaign costs, increases voter turnout,
discourages negative campaigning, encourages candidates to have a
citywide understanding of issues and allows neighborhood
representation if enough of a neighborhood supports the same
Seattle has the opportunity to adopt a fairer
voting system. As an indication of how appealing Choice Voting is,
more than 18,000 Seattle voters have signed petitions asking that
the city give the voters a chance to adopt such a system.
Let's do it!