1 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona: 2 Section 1. Title 16, chapter 4, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended 3 by adding article 8.2, to read: 4 ARTICLE 8.2. OPTIONAL CITY AND TOWN APPROVAL VOTING 5 16-559. City and town approval voting; requirements 6 A. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER STATUTE, A CITY OR TOWN IN THIS STATE MAY 7 BY ORDINANCE ESTABLISH AND USE A SYSTEM OF APPROVAL VOTING IN THAT CITY'S OR 8 TOWN'S PRIMARY OR FIRST ELECTION. AN APPROVAL VOTING SYSTEM SHALL PROVIDE 9 FOR THE FOLLOWING: 10 1. THE VOTER IN THE PRIMARY OR FIRST ELECTION SHALL BE PERMITTED TO 11 VOTE FOR AS MANY CANDIDATES FOR A SINGLE OFFICE AS THE VOTER CHOOSES TO 12 APPROVE. 13 2. THE TWO CANDIDATES WHO RECEIVE THE HIGHEST AND SECOND HIGHEST 14 NUMBER OF VOTES IN THE PRIMARY OR FIRST ELECTION SHALL ADVANCE TO THE GENERAL 15 OR RUNOFF ELECTION FOR THAT CITY OR TOWN WITHOUT REGARD TO WHETHER ANY ONE 16 CANDIDATE HAS RECEIVED A MAJORITY OF THE VOTES CAST FOR THAT OFFICE. 17 3. THE BALLOT AND ALL OTHER VOTING MATERIALS SHALL CLEARLY INDICATE 18 THAT THE VOTER MAY VOTE FOR AS MANY CANDIDATES IN THAT ELECTION AS THE VOTER 19 CHOOSES, AND THAT THE CANDIDATES WHO RECEIVE THE TWO HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES 20 SHALL ADVANCE TO THE GENERAL OR RUNOFF ELECTION. 21 B. EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED IN THIS ARTICLE, CITY AND TOWN 22 APPROVAL VOTING ELECTIONS SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE 23 PROVISIONS OF ARTICLE 8 OF THIS CHAPTER. 24 16-559.01. Approval voting; charter; ordinance 25 THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT REQUIRE A CITY OR TOWN TO ADOPT AN APPROVAL 26 VOTING SYSTEM, BUT A CITY OR TOWN MAY AMEND ITS CHARTER IF REQUIRED FOR THAT 27 CITY OR TOWN TO ADOPT AN ORDINANCE TO IMPLEMENT AN APPROVAL VOTING SYSTEM AS 28 PRESCRIBED BY THIS ARTICLE.
This bill (as verbatim above) passed the AZ house 31-26 in March 2013. As you can see, it is short and simple. I wrote a letter supporting it.
It then entered their senate where unfortunately it was saddled with a gigantic 11-page long absolutely unreadable and incomprehensible amendment about (what it calls) "ranked choice voting." This amendment was 12 times the length of the original bill above and comparable in length to the entire federal voting rights act. It would seem to be an enormous abuse of the amendment process. Further, I believe this amendment was not understood by any legislator, including any of its authors! Indeed I believe I can prove none of them understood it by exhibiting internal contradictions which in fact render it meaningless. I am also worried that this amendment also may be unconstitutional, be intended to be a graftlike payoff to certain unidentified voting machine companies behind it, and may cost AZ $100 million although the original bill cost zero. (I'm trying to figure those things out, but it is hard because I do not understand it.)
It is my opinion that any law should
These are not very great demands, they are more of a starting point. But this amendment, even though it was passed unanimously by 7-0 vote of the senate election committee, fails to meet those demands.
Beyond merely the fact the law is incomprehensible and I contend never was comprehended by any legislator, let's examine my worries in more detail, one by one.
Huge cost? Rule 16-449A states in part:
Within the period of time before the election day prescribed by the secretary of state in the instructions and procedures manual adopted pursuant to section 16-452, the board of supervisors or other election officer in charge, or for an election involving state or federal candidates, the secretary of state, shall have the automatic tabulating equipment and programs tested to ascertain that the equipment and programs will correctly count the votes cast for all offices and on all measures, INCLUDING THOSE USING THE RANKED CHOICE VOTING METHOD. Public notice of the time and place of the test shall be given at least forty-eight hours prior thereto by publication once in one or more daily or weekly newspapers published in the town, city or village using such equipment...
Such rules as this would seem to require that the secretary of state certify all voting machines in the state must support "ranked choice voting method" (whatever that means). It depends whether you interpret "will correctly count the votes cast for all offices and on all measures" as "just for the ones in some particular election while perhaps failing for others, we don't care" or "generally, for use in future elections." The latter interpretation would be more fiscally sensible because you'd only need to test a machine once (e.g. when purchase it). This in turn would mean probably all voting machines in AZ must be replaced, at cost of $100 million (?), which would be quite amazing especially if few or no places in AZ ever actually want to use "ranked choice voting"... (in contrast, every machine AZ has already supports approval voting...)
Unconstitutional? Rule 16-446A says in part
An electronic voting system consisting of a voting or marking device in combination with vote tabulating equipment shall provide facilities for voting for candidates at both primary and general elections.
That seems to indicate there are separate primaries and generals, as required by AZ constitution. But... really? A problem is that it is never explicitly stated (that I noticed) what the RCV election is to be used for, I.e. it is not stated whether the RCV election is a primary or general election albeit it apparently is implied that it's the general election with (hence) no primary. That if so would violate Arizona's constitution. And what is RCV="ranked choice voting"? Well, pages 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 seem to be trying to explain/define that. I point out that I have read many voting methods books, e.g. a pretty good one is
Complexity: ...but in all the definitions of all the voting methods in that and other books that I have seen, I don't think there has ever been even one that has required even close to 8 pages to define it. That makes this amendment's method more complicated and harder to read than every method in every voting methods book. This is despite the fact "FairVote" – an organization I suspect was behind this "ranked choice voting" amendment (because the misleading name "ranked choice voting" is FairVote's – there actually are over 100 voting methods based on rankings as votes, and FairVote by doing this is intentionally trying to falsely suggest theirs is the only one) – calls it "as simple as 1-2-3."
It is hard to be this bad.
I defy any human being to read that amendment then describe it as "as simple as 1-2-3."
In the past, FairVote has always claimed their "ranked choice voting" system is intended to happen in one round. Not a primary and a general (two, which was the topic of the original bill), but one. Indeed, that was one of their biggest "selling points." They in their advertising campaigns (in addition to continually saying it was "simple as 1-2-3") also kept saying this would save money versus two-round systems. For example, FairVote successfully prevailed upon San Francisco to jettison its two-round system in favor of a 1-round system with rank-order votes. Also, they did the same in Minneapolis. (These both were advertised by FairVote as money-saving changes, which made sense since fewer rounds ought to cost less – except that actually it appears that they did not save money but rather cost money in both SF and Minneapolis.) But, if so, that would be unconstitutional in Arizona! If not, then plainly the system proposed in this amendment differs fundamentally from whatever FairVote had misleadlingly branded with the name "ranked choice voting" throughout their entire history. It is something else. What?
What is "ranked choice voting"? Good luck trying to figure that out from pages 4-11. So far, I have been unable. I do not believe the original author of the (House) bill [Justin Olson, district 19] can figure it out and explain it to me, and indeed I've heard indirectly that Olson now says he can no longer support his own bill if amended as in the Senate.
But I noticed this. Rule 16-731-A-1:
FOR AN ELECTION TO FILL TWO OR MORE SEATS FOR THE SAME OFFICE AND TERM, AN ELECTOR MAY VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATES FOR THAT OFFICE BY INDICATING THE ELECTOR'S ORDER OF PREFERENCE AMONG THE CANDIDATES. AN ELECTOR MAY VOTE FOR AND RANK AS FEW OF THE CANDIDATES AS THE ELECTOR WISHES...
from which we deduce that any voter (elector) can vote for as few as zero candidates if they wish. Rule 16-731-2-B says
FOR ANY ELECTION WITH RANKED CHOICE VOTING, THE THRESHOLD NUMBER OF VOTES NECESSARY FOR A CANDIDATE TO BE ELECTED IS: THE FEWEST VOTES THAT CAN BE OBTAINED BY NO MORE THAN THE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES TO BE ELECTED.
As we just showed from rule 16-731-A-1, this fewest obtainable number of votes is zero. Therefore, the threshhold is zero. Next we go to rule 16-731-2-B-2:
THE THRESHOLD NUMBER OF VOTES NECESSARY FOR A CANDIDATE TO BE ELECTED IS CALCULATED BY DETERMINING THE TOTAL NUMBER OF VALID VOTES CAST AND DIVIDING THAT NUMBER BY THE SUM OF ONE PLUS THE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES TO BE ELECTED, THEN ADDING ONE VOTE TO THE AMOUNT CALCULATED AND IGNORING ANY FRACTIONS IN THE RESULTS...
This "calculation" however, will in general yield a result different from zero. For example, if there were 3 valid votes and 2 candidates, it would yield 2. But 2≠0. Contradiction.
It is quite amazing to see the AZ senate legislating that 2=0 by law. This contradiction renders the law meaningless and proves no legislator understood it (in fact no human ever can understand it, since it is meaningless). And here's another. Rule 16-731-A-2 says
THE THRESHOLD FORMULA FOR A SINGLE SEAT CONTEST SHALL RESULT IN A MAJORITY.
OK, let's try the formula described in rule 16-731-2-B-2. Assume there are 2 candidates for election, and 101 voters. 101/3+1=34.666 which since we ignore fractions is rounded to 34. Is 34 a "majority" of 101? No, that would require at least 51. So it seems the AZ Senate has also legislated that 34≥51. Mere mathematics is evidently nothing next to the overwhelming power of the Arizona Senate.
Another problem is this. Now suppose there are 1001 voters and 3 candidates for election in a single seat contest. Suppose 340 of the voters vote "Amy," 331 vote "Bob," and 330 vote "Cal." (These voters rank only 1 candidate each, as per rule 16-731-A-1, but because of that rule all these are valid votes.) OK. As you can see, nobody got a majority of 501. Yet, the threshold is, by rule 16-731-A-2, a majority. Therefore, nobody is elected. This kind of circumstance is quite common. For example in the USA presidential election of 1992, Clinton got 43.0%, Bush got 37.5%, Perot got 18.9%, and nobody got a majority. Because the USA was not using the voting system in this bill, in particular was not using rule 16-731-A-2, Clinton won. But with this rule, nobody would have won.
Is Arizona really sure it wishes, as a matter of law, to demand that nobody be elected?
Or we could instead use the threshhold 1001/(3+1)+1=251.25 rounded down to 251, from the contradictory rule 16-731-2-B-2, or the threshhold 0 from the (contradicting them both) rule 16-731-2-B/16-731-A-1. In those cases, Amy would win.
Are there more such contradictions? Probably. These contradictions were only what I noticed in trying to read the first 2 pages! There's plenty more pages. Frankly, I do not think the authors of this amendment appear competent in either basic mathematics or basic writing skills.
What is their voting system intended to be? Who knows? It simply is not described in the bill despite consuming more pages than probably any voting method description in any voting method book.
Jettison the amendment. If you insist on having it, make it be a stand-alone bill, not part of HB 2518, then debate it on its own merits or lack thereof. (And you should probably rewrite it totally first so you can have something meaningful to debate.)
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