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Bruce & Krist with Flipper at House of Blues on the Sunset Strip . Photo: Tate Wittenburg

Breaking News!!! The United States Supreme Court has

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House of Blues, Rock, and Ranked Choice in LA

FlipHOB.jpg

Bruce & Krist with Flipper at House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Photo: Tate Wittenburg

Breaking News!!! The United States Supreme Court has upheld 1-872, Washington’s Top-Two partisan primary. I'll have more on this soon

I’ve just returned from a three-night stint at the House Of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. Flipper opened for Bad Religion. Revolution Mother opened the show. The shows were great, and Dale Crover and Buzzo from the Melvins joined Flipper on the last night for a rippinG version of Sacrifice.

I also got a chance to get up to speed with election reform efforts in Los Angeles. Circumstances in LA make Ranked Choice Voting an excellent alternative to the current system.

LA uses a non-partisan, top-two runoff system to elect their public officials. In odd years, elections are held in March. If a candidate wins a majority of votes, they’re elected. If there’s no majority, the top two vote getters advance to a runoff in May. (This is how Washington State conducts judicial elections except they’re held in August and November.)

In the LA March ’07 election, with no open seats, all of the incumbent city councilors on the ballot cruised to re-election with a majority of votes. Citizens seemed satisfied with their leadership (or didn’t care) and with no real competitive races to draw interest, voter turnout was only 10 percent.

The race for the Los Angeles Community College Board had an incumbent facing three challengers to the March ballot. The incumbent drew 46 percent. There was no majority winner so there needed to be a May runoff.

Los Angeles had to administer another election just for a single down-ballot race. With such low public interest, turnout was a meager 6 percent! Regardless of 94 percent of voters staying home, the city had to pay 100 percent of the costs of holding the election. The runoff cost taxpayers $5 million. And the incumbent won anyway.

While the civic-minded will lament the lack of participation, it’s the fiscal note that’s catching the eye of leadership in a city facing budget deficits. The attraction is simple: Ranked Choice Voting consolidates elections, thus saves millions of dollars. Single ranked ballots do the same thing as the old runoff: those voters whose favorite candidate is eliminated in March has to put down a second choice in May. RCV does the same thing: but with one ballot!

This situation makes Los Angeles an excellent prospect for Ranked Choice Voting. The LA city council is looking at RCV as a remedy to the problems with the current system. There are five supporters on the LA council. It takes eight votes to put a city charter amendment on the ballot. There’s a study due in May on how the city would implement RCV. There’s a very real possibility voters could face a ballot measure in November or March.

The California Secretary of State has only conditionally certified voting equipment in Los Angeles. LA needs to upgrade its voting machines anyway and there is $50 million in Federal Funds available to do it. The switch to RCV is even more sensible because they’re already going to replace equipment.

There are practical reasons for Los Angeles to make the switch. But with single digit turnout, who’ll notice the change anyway?

I’ll be back in a couple of days with my reaction to the USSC ruling.

 
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