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Asher Hershey
Rocking For The Vote with The Presidents, Crocodile Cafe, September 2009. Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. Read about


Election 2009 Recap: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Thumbnail image for presidents.jpg
Asher Hershey
Rocking For The Vote with The Presidents, Crocodile Cafe, September 2009. Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. Read about what he's listening to every Friday on Reverb.
Young voters managed to shake things up again this year--most notably in Seattle's mayoral race. The new generation may have taken the torch to the status quo, but it's only natural for change to come--sooner or later. After two successful landmark elections, young voters should remember that they're not always going to be pulling wins, and that a once-unthinkable goal can become reality with hard work and perseverance. Voters upholding Washington's new domestic-partnership law is proof of that. Here's my take on last week's election and an ever-transforming political culture.

Seattle Music

Last September, Seattle's music establishment came out in support of the individual campaigns of Dow Constantine, Mike McGinn, and Peter Holmes. It's a sweep of wins. Having a politically active music/entertainment community goes back many years, and has produced officials like bandleader Vic Meyers, who served at different times as Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.

The Crocodile hosted various events during election season that not only raised thousands of dollars, but also got good coverage and brought glam to campaigns. These kinds of events will now be a must-do for candidates seeking office locally and beyond.

State Measures: 1-1033, R-71

Even though I-1033 lost, Tim Eyman has said he'll be back with another proposal next year. The man is practically another branch of government. The tax-limiting proposal's loss shows that many voters value government services. We'll see how the legislature and a Constantine-led King County will interpret this regarding raising taxes. My hunch is that they will propose higher taxes mainly through ballot measures.

In 1997 I had a bumper sticker on my car that said Hands Off Washington. The term referred to a group that was promoting I-677, a ballot measure that dealt with civil rights regarding employing gays and lesbians. I-677 lost badly at the polls. But a week after that election, it would have been unimaginable for Olympia ever to pass a same-sex domestic-partnership law, let alone for voters to approve it. Last Tuesday, voters gave the thumbs-up to R-71, granting rights to state-registered same-sex domestic partnerships. It goes to show how the public's mores change over time.

Ranked Choice Voting

We election reformers in Washington got our asses handed to us on a platter on election night. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in Pierce County.

RCV seemed to work well in its 2008 debut--especially considering the large turnout for the presidential campaign. Voters knew how to rank candidates, but I've found that many didn't know why they were doing it.

RCV was passed by voters in 2006 and 2007 as an alternative to partisan primary ballots. But in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a version of Washington's long-standing top-two primary. Voters already had a majority voting system they were used to. The newfangled RCV ballots must have appeared unnecessary.

RCV folds the primary into the general election, therefore saving the cost of holding two separate elections. But Washington still had a primary for other elections, and the savings were not realized. In addition, election administrators paid exorbitant fees to the private company that contracts with the county for including RCV within the tabulating infrastructure. RCV was hit for being too expensive.

To many, depending on whom you wanted to see elected, RCV somehow produced the wrong results. The political establishment strongly opposed the system, and again administrators did it no favors. Many beat up on RCV because they claimed it took too long to count the ballots. While most RCV races were called on election night, it was a week before voters found out who won the county executive race.

Even my own Democratic party was against it. Unlike the top-two, RCV allows political parties to control who uses their name on the ballot. Ironically, this only worked against RCV because of the widespread impression of party rank-and-file as hacks and bosses.

But not all was bad. There was an RCV election itself in Pierce and it worked well. Minneapolis had its first RCV election last week. Even though it too was pushing against bureaucratic headwinds, it worked fine to many good reviews.

I first started promoting election reform in 1997 and this issue has come a long way. Regardless of the results of an election, you have to accept what happened and keep participating. That's the deal with democracy, you win some, you lose some.

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