Archives - Lloyd Snook Comments on Single-Shotting and on the Convention Process
March 2002
Letters to the Editor: Lloyd Snook Comments on Single-Shotting and on the Convention Process
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Comparing the various convention results, it appears that the amount of single-shotting was about what we would expect in the election as a whole. The typical 2-seat race generates an average of about 1.9 votes per voter, and that was just about exactly what we saw on each of the first three ballots.

The precincts themselves ranged from a high of 2 votes per voter (Alumni Hall and Tonsler on the first round) to a low of 1.63 in Tonsler on the third round, after David Simmons dropped out. Interestingly, the largest beneficiary of Joan Fenton's having dropped out was not Waldo Jaquith, whom she endorsed, but Alexandria Searls (though the numbers were close). I surmise that this was because there were a number of people for whom their "ticket" was Joan and Waldo, and they couldn't cast a second ballot for Waldo. I also know that there were a number of people participating who wanted another woman on Council, and if it couldn't be Joan, they wanted it to be Alexandria.

A similar effect was seen when David dropped out; he asked folks to vote for Blake, and 2 more did. But I suspect that most of David's supporters were already supporting Blake. Again, Alexandria was the largest beneficiary of David's departure.

The drop-off before the fourth ballot was great enough that I am not sure that any conclusions can be drawn from it.

On balance, Alexandria's winning formula seems to be that if she wasn't everyone's first or second choice, she was a lot of people's third choice. In a race like this, that was a good position to be in.

Finally, I would like to reflect for a moment on the process.

The Executive Committee will be meeting shortly to do a post-mortem on the caucus, and I would invite the thoughts of anyone and everyone on the process -- better than the old way(s)? things to change?

My thoughts, which I offer as a way to spur thoughts of others, are as follows:

1. We could have counted ballots faster. Next time we'll have more ballot counters. On the other hand, any time that there was the slightest question about the totals, they counted the precinct again until they were sure that they had it right -- a thoroughness that I applaud.

2. Some folks have commented that the 10 AM time excludes those who attend synagogue. We picked 10 AM for probably the worst of all reasons -- because we have always done it then. If a 12 noon start would be better, I'd like to know.

3. I had been telling people all along that I thought we'd be done some time after 1 PM, but by 2 PM. If Blake Caravati had been selected on the first or second round, it would have saved about 15 minutes of ballot-counting on each subsequent round. Counting for 2 seats takes much more time.

4. When we debated the instant runoff method, which would have allowed everyone to leave by noon, and then leave the ballot counters to figure it all out, one of the reasons why we rejected that system was that people felt that it would be important to know who had been selected, or who had been eliminated, in how they wanted to cast their remaining votes. The way that things changed during the course of the convention, it seems that that is exactly what happened. Alexandria Searls was in fourth place after the first ballot, but wound up the second nominee. I don't know that an instant runoff system would have produced such a result.

5. Any system has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of this system is that it allowed those who came and stayed to make the best decision that they could, based on the best information available to them at the time that they cast their votes. On the other hand, about 25% of the participants left before the last ballot. The instant runoff system has the advantage of allowing the most people to affect the ultimate decision with the least expenditure of time, but at the cost of requiring folks to make decisions about who their next choices are before they know who has been eliminated or nominated already. And depending on how the instant runoff system is actually conducted, it may have the result of requiring people to express a preference that they don't actually have. For example, if you came wanting to vote for Joan, and no other candidate would get your vote, why should you be put in a position to have to express preferences among the remaining candidates? And if we adopted a variant that allowed a vote for only one candidate, that introduces a whole new level of game-playing with single-shot voting.

6. If I have to choose which advantages and disadvantages to live with, I would rather have a system that takes a little longer to allow people to get the decision right, than to have a system that sacrifices deliberation for speed and convenience. Our party cannot function without a lot of long hours put in by many dedicated people. Frankly, I would rather have a decision made by the kinds of people who build, fund, and run our party -- the folks for whom a four-hour convention to get things right is preferable to a two-hour convention that may not. If you can't afford 4 hours every two years, you're not much of a Democrat. Some candidates were telling people that things would be done by noon; that was never in the cards, with speeches alone taking us to 11:30. Some candidates were telling their people to expect to stay to 2:00; 310 did. Winning a nomination is always going to be about getting the most people to be in the room when the decision is made. I think we did well to have 310 still there.

7. I would like to know how the DFC child care worked. I was not interested in having the Party provide child care, because I did not see how we could do it safely on site. If experience shows that I was wrong, I'd like to know.

8. With as many people as we had, I am glad that we were at the PAC. We would have been too many to use either Buford or Walker, and I object as a general proposition to using a County building -- even a centrally located one such as the Lane Auditorium at the County Office Building -- for having a City Party affair. True, the PAC is not in easy walking distance for some folks who don't have cars. But that's what candidate organizations are for.

9. If we do the same sort of thing again in two years, and if there is anyone who wants to sell food, that would be a great idea. On the other hand, if the ballot-counting goes faster, there would be very little time to buy food and eat it outside the hall.

10. No one ever said that democracy was efficient. The more participatory our democracy, the less efficient we will be. And I don't mind that a bit.

Lloyd Snook (electronic mail, March 4, 2002)

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