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The Farce Continues in Albany

Posted by Pete Healey on January 22, 2010 at 1:23 AM

When the state legislature wants to act, they can act quickly and decisively. Just the other day both houses passed an ethics reform bill and there were only three votes cast in opposition(we will endeavor to find out their names and applaud them here in the near future). This action was in response to the Governor's call for sweeping ethics and election reforms for state government in his state-of-the-state speech just ten days before. The Governor for his part has already sworn that he will veto this legislation which he says doesn't go nearly far enough, and legislative leaders have already responded that they intend to override his veto. This is Albany at work, full of half measures and politically charged threats. The real prize for this year, apart from the governorship itself, is control of the state senate, which will determine how the legislature is governed for the next ten years. You see, the legislature elected this year will determine district boundaries next year during the apportionment process, which happens once every ten years, after the census. If the Dems take control, they will draw radically new senate districts which will ensure their control of that house as surely as they control the Assembly now and into the future.

Redistricting was the one major area of ethics and election reform that the governor never mentioned in his recent state-of-the-state address, and we're not surprised. The Governor may find it politically advantageous to attack the legislature but he's not interested in bringing modern democratic reforms to Albany. He sat quietly in the state senate in his own gerrymandered seat for more than twenty years and assumed the governorship without being elected to that post. We await the day, far off in our point of view, when David Patterson will turn away from a career spent as an insider in an insider's game, and call for a constitutional convention in New York, and real modern electoral reforms like a single house legislature with 200 members, half of whom are elected from districts drawn up by a nonpartisan commission, and the other half elected by proportional rules in a statewide ballot, with a 3 or 4 percent minimum threshold for parties to gain seats. Until then, we'll call a farce a farce. 

Categories: NYS, Proportional Representation, Constitutional Convention

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12 Comments

Reply dlw
5:41 PM on July 21, 2010 
What's wrong with calling for less dramatic reforms, like I do at Strategic Election Reform?

Even if there's politics involved with state-districting, it won't matter so much if there are 3 state reps per district and if an open primary, where voters must give approval to 3 of 7 primary candidates, is used to determine the final 3 candidates for state senators!

dlw
Reply pete healey
9:34 PM on July 21, 2010 
David,
We need to make room for several minor parties, all at once. A proportional requirement, as with the 5% minimum the Germans use, allows parties will relatively small popular support to gain seats and representation for their constituencies. Two large parties and several small ones are often the result of such a scheme. America's current political makeup roughly resembles that now, with a couple of small parties to the right of the Reps and three or four to the left of the Dems.
Finally, I never tire of arguing that PR resolves the campaign finance reform dilemma too. It seems to me that "determined minorities" will get their fair share of voters to the polls no matter how much money any other party or candidate has to spend.



dlw says...
What's wrong with calling for less dramatic reforms, like I do at Strategic Election Reform?

Even if there's politics involved with state-districting, it won't matter so much if there are 3 state reps per district and if an open primary, where voters must give approval to 3 of 7 primary candidates, is used to determine the final 3 candidates for state senators!

dlw
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
12:57 PM on July 22, 2010 
pete healey says...
David,
We need to make room for several minor parties, all at once.


Well, there would be several minor parties, which would have seats in the state house of reps. At issue is what happens when there are a polyglot of parties in a particular state-district. Then, the biggest will tend to get elected or there'll need to be alliances or they'll end up going back-n-forth some wrt who holds the seat.

On average, though, there'll be room for more than one minor party and there won't necessarily be the same two major parties in each of the 50 states. So there'll be intermediate parties in the mix of our nat'l politics, not unlike the Progressive Party of WI or the Labor Party of MN earlier in the last century.

pete healey says...
A proportional requirement, as with the 5% minimum the Germans use, allows parties will relatively small popular support to gain seats and representation for their constituencies. Two large parties and several small ones are often the result of such a scheme. America's current political makeup roughly resembles that now, with a couple of small parties to the right of the Reps and three or four to the left of the Dems.


AmPR allows a minor party to win with 10% of the vote if the major party gets less than 43.3% of the vote and the minor party makes the top three. In order for the top party to win two seats, they'd need to get one third of the total vote more than the third place party. Thus, third parties persistently winning a third of the seats at the district level is very likely, given how there is a lot of strategic voting going on and third parties would be more effective at persuading habitual non-voters to vote.

Plus, even if a third party doesn't win a seat, it can still wield significant influence in winner-take-all elections if they are willing to focus on contesting winnable seats and vote strategically together otherwise (while also engaging in civil-issue advocacy measures) .

pete healey says...
Finally, I never tire of arguing that PR resolves the campaign finance reform dilemma too. It seems to me that "determined minorities" will get their fair share of voters to the polls no matter how much money any other party or candidate has to spend.


Absolutely, but the same can be said for AmPR..., plus it makes the competition between the major two parties less cut-throat and prevents either of them from dominating a states' politics and thereby failing to set up an adequate system of checks-n-balances at the state level.

The money won't matter as much for the major parties either if there were AmPR. They would be helping their party in other winner-take-all elections, holding the third parties at bay and maybe trying to win 50% of the vote or to get two of the three seats. Either way, $peech won't be as crucial for maintaining the status quo arrangements.

dlw
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
1:01 PM on July 22, 2010 
A top 3 IRV would tend to reform the political center during the "open" primary with seven candidates and when voters would have to pick their top 3 favorites. This election rule makes it so that the candidates incentives are to listen, not attack, their competitors. So third party activists should get a hearing for their views if they are quite likely to help determine which 3 candidates make it to the general election. And their influence will remain significant in the irv election if their ideas are communicated in a manner that appeals to the de facto political center.

dlw
Reply pete healey
6:22 PM on July 22, 2010 
I'm not understanding the different levels of election that you're proposing, the "3 of 7 primary" and the percentages which make for victories in general elections. It sounds complicated, is it?



wetzelld@gmail.com says...
A top 3 IRV would tend to reform the political center during the "open" primary with seven candidates and when voters would have to pick their top 3 favorites. This election rule makes it so that the candidates incentives are to listen, not attack, their competitors. So third party activists should get a hearing for their views if they are quite likely to help determine which 3 candidates make it to the general election. And their influence will remain significant in the irv election if their ideas are communicated in a manner that appeals to the de facto political center.

dlw
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
8:00 PM on July 22, 2010 
pete healey says...
I'm not understanding the different levels of election that you're proposing, the "3 of 7 primary" and the percentages which make for victories in general elections. It sounds complicated, is it?


I was presuming you remembered what I had written about Strategic Election Reform. I advocate for the use of 2 different election rules for the two branches of state llegislatures.

In American PR, there's one candidate per party and people vote for their top candidate. Then, either the top 3 candidates win, or the top candidate gets to pick a teammate to come with her/him (if the diff between the top candidate and the 3rd place candidate is more than a 1/3rd of the total vote) and the 2nd place candidate wins the 3rd seat.

In the state senate, we guarantee that the general election is a 3-way race among 3 relative centrist candidates by having a primary with 7 candidates from multiple parties and letting primary voters pick the 3 candidates they most want to see in the final general election. The three that get the most approval votes advance to the general election.

While the first election allows parties to be distnct, the second election tends to build up the political center. The use of both election rules together would tend to combine their properties. The 1st would be biased towards (somewhat bigger) smaller parties, while the 2nd rule would be biased towards the more centrist members of the bigger parties.

But in both cases, the choices given to voters would not be that complicated and the race would be more likely to be interesting, since the 3rd seat for AmPR and the state senate seat would be more competitive or harder to predict in its final outcome.

dlw
Reply pete healey
2:16 PM on July 25, 2010 
David,
It's a little complicated, and it leaves me feeling left out because my politics really belong out in the six and seventh party territory and your system leaves me without any real chance at all, doesn't it? Ultimately I'm not interested in securing and supporting "the center". For me, any system has to provide an opportunity for all parts of the spectrum.



wetzelld@gmail.com says...
I was presuming you remembered what I had written about Strategic Election Reform. I advocate for the use of 2 different election rules for the two branches of state llegislatures.

In American PR, there's one candidate per party and people vote for their top candidate. Then, either the top 3 candidates win, or the top candidate gets to pick a teammate to come with her/him (if the diff between the top candidate and the 3rd place candidate is more than a 1/3rd of the total vote) and the 2nd place candidate wins the 3rd seat.

In the state senate, we guarantee that the general election is a 3-way race among 3 relative centrist candidates by having a primary with 7 candidates from multiple parties and letting primary voters pick the 3 candidates they most want to see in the final general election. The three that get the most approval votes advance to the general election.

While the first election allows parties to be distnct, the second election tends to build up the political center. The use of both election rules together would tend to combine their properties. The 1st would be biased towards (somewhat bigger) smaller parties, while the 2nd rule would be biased towards the more centrist members of the bigger parties.

But in both cases, the choices given to voters would not be that complicated and the race would be more likely to be interesting, since the 3rd seat for AmPR and the state senate seat would be more competitive or harder to predict in its final outcome.

dlw
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
3:28 PM on July 25, 2010 
pete healey says...
David,
It's a little complicated, and it leaves me feeling left out because my politics really belong out in the six and seventh party territory and your system leaves me without any real chance at all, doesn't it? Ultimately I'm not interested in securing and supporting "the center". For me, any system has to provide an opportunity for all parts of the spectrum.


dlw: Well, the individual parts are not complicated, but how they combine and their implications as a whole can be quite nuanced.

To understand my system, I should mention that I am a strong believer in the politics of Gandhi (as MLKjr practiced), whereby a dissenting group engages in self-sacrificial acts on behalf of others so as to move the center. This focus on expanding influence, more so than power, is why I take a less-is-more approach that hopefully will be easier to pass in the near future. I can care about building up a center, because I trust that there will be many groups adding their own flavor into the melding pot. And, as such, we'll both be able to work out peaceably our differences and make very significant and much needed differences to our political system.

I also believe that with my approach that when the center gets moved considerably (on an ongoing basis) that both the major parties will need to move or get displaced from their privileged position. And so I sincerely doubt you'd still find yourself in a 6th or 7th party position under such a system.

I doubt there'll be a party that'll fit my views either. I wrote my own ideal-type party platform back in 2002 and though my views have changed, I'd say my ideals are not anywhere close to coming true. But I accept the system as it is, as both part of getting along with others and the best way to make reforms happen sooner.

dlw



[/pete healey]
Reply pete healey
9:16 AM on July 27, 2010 
I'm with you on the "self-acrificing acts on behalf of others" part. Our mutual advocacy of changes in the electoral system that benefit political actors other than ourselves qualifies, I think. And the peaceful attempts at inclusion and full participation, and fundamental change, are part of this scheme as well. Your approach is much more conciliatory than mine, however. I enjoy taking a metaphorical baseball bat and swatting people upside the head with it, and you tap them on the shoulder metaphorically. So it's not so much differences in our politics as in our temperament. Does that make sense?




wetzelld@gmail.com says...
dlw: Well, the individual parts are not complicated, but how they combine and their implications as a whole can be quite nuanced.

To understand my system, I should mention that I am a strong believer in the politics of Gandhi (as MLKjr practiced), whereby a dissenting group engages in self-sacrificial acts on behalf of others so as to move the center. This focus on expanding influence, more so than power, is why I take a less-is-more approach that hopefully will be easier to pass in the near future. I can care about building up a center, because I trust that there will be many groups adding their own flavor into the melding pot. And, as such, we'll both be able to work out peaceably our differences and make very significant and much needed differences to our political system.

I also believe that with my approach that when the center gets moved considerably (on an ongoing basis) that both the major parties will need to move or get displaced from their privileged position. And so I sincerely doubt you'd still find yourself in a 6th or 7th party position under such a system.

I doubt there'll be a party that'll fit my views either. I wrote my own ideal-type party platform back in 2002 and though my views have changed, I'd say my ideals are not anywhere close to coming true. But I accept the system as it is, as both part of getting along with others and the best way to make reforms happen sooner.

dlw

[/wetzelld@gmail.com]
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
10:24 AM on July 27, 2010 
pete healey says...
I'm with you on the "self-acrificing acts on behalf of others" part. Our mutual advocacy of changes in the electoral system that benefit political actors other than ourselves qualifies, I think.


I agree.

pete healey says...
And the peaceful attempts at inclusion and full participation, and fundamental change, are part of this scheme as well. Your approach is much more conciliatory than mine, however. I enjoy taking a metaphorical baseball bat and swatting people upside the head with it, and you tap them on the shoulder metaphorically. So it's not so much differences in our politics as in our temperament. Does that make sense?


I don't know if I'd say I'm merely tapping them on the shoulder. I am trying to throw a wrench in the plans to reset the Dem party machine as de facto in power in the USA. I am trying to make it so the two major parties must change or die, or get reincarnated on an ongoing basis to remain the two major parties. I am denying that one can be both MLKjr and LBJ and implying that to follow the former we must change the mix of winner-take-all and winner-doesn't-take-all elections. We must make more local elections more competitive and interesting for voters , who are led astray without the help of local third parties, as they get inundated by (mis)information about less local elections.

So I guess I'd say I'm definitely trying to rock things, I'm just picking my battles more strategically and not as concerned with ending effective two-party rule or leaving no party behind.... Those things are far less important than subverting the rivalry between the two major parties (or stopping our system from tilting to effective single-party rule) and enabling much more reforms to get worked out so as to save our country (and maybe our world) from catatastrophe...

dlw
Reply wetzelld@gmail.com
10:30 AM on July 27, 2010 
ps, I shared about American Proportional Representation with the Freedom Party folks.

Hopefully, they'll see it as the way to make the major parties give more voice to minorities!!!

dlw
Reply pete healey
7:41 AM on July 29, 2010 
wetzelld@gmail.com says...
ps, I shared about American Proportional Representation with the Freedom Party folks.

Hopefully, they'll see it as the way to make the major parties give more voice to minorities!!!

dlw