Vote for seven!

Of the (too) many offices up for election in my area this November, one of the most puzzling is the Ramona Community Planning Group. This is an elected advisory body to the County Board of Supervisors. Ramona is a relatively large community, but is unincorporated.

The Planning Group (can’t they call it a board or a council rather than a group?) consists of 15 members, all elected at-large. In other words, there are no districts. In alternate biennial elections, either eight or seven are up for election. This is a “vote for no more than seven” election. It is a nonpartisan race. The only identifying information on the ballot regarding the candidates is their (self-described) occupation.

So here we have an interesting electoral system. The district magnitude is seven, and the candidates with the seven highest vote totals will be elected. It is a good example of multiple nontransferable vote (MNTV).

MNTV is often called “block vote,” but it really only functions that way if there are, in fact, identifiable “blocks” of candidates in the race and voters who tend to vote “in block.” In other words, if there are de facto parties, which have loyal voters who will go to the trouble of giving all their M (here 7) votes to candidates of the block. Otherwise, it may be more like the limited vote, with many voters using fewer than M votes.

I will certainly be one of those “limited” voters, as I can’t figure out seven candidates I would want to vote for. It is not for lack of choice. There are twenty candidates. But information is somewhat scant. Only six of the candidates submitted statements for the ballot pamphlet. Not that these are ever terribly informative. (One can track down another four on Smart Voter, but information is not extensive there, either.)

There is, however, a “block” within Ramona. It is called Citizens for a Rural Ramona (CFRR). Sounds good, given the character of the region. However, it is a classic NIMBY special-interest organization, comprised mainly of property owners in the vicinity of a proposed road extension. The extension, which would relieve traffic congestion on other streets, has been on the County planning maps for many years, but now that construction is set to start, a neighborhood group is organized to try to take control of the Planning Group.

CFRR has endorsed ten* candidates (overnomination!). Given their organization, they stand a good chance of electing several of their candidates. If their supporters have sufficient “blockness” in their use of votes (using all seven of their votes and voting only for candidates from the endorsed list) they could fill all the seats at stake in this election, even if they are not a majority of the voters. And if they are a majority, they will still be over-represented, because their blockness is sure to exceed that of other groups of voters–many of whom, like me, may cast only two or three votes.

Classic MNTV.

(Three other MNTV races on my ballot are a lot less interesting. Each has M+1 candidates, M of whom are incumbents, with M ranging from 2 to 4.)

* Their website says eleven, but actually lists only ten.

5 thoughts on “Vote for seven!

  1. MSS, do you have an “Iceland” thread?

    “The 25 members will be elected by STV-PR, using the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method (WIGM) of calculating transfer values, very similar to but slightly different from that currently used for the Local Government STV-PR elections in Scotland. There is a 40% sex-balance rule that is to be applied after the STV-PR election for the 25 places has been completed…” []

  2. Yes, an Iceland thread, please. Another source is the Iceland Review (this article links to some previous ones as well).

    The question of the largest district magnitude for which STV is practical comes up here from time to time. In this election, the magnitude is 25 — and over 500 people have signed up to run. This will be interesting.

  3. I don’t think elected advisory bodies are all that common, even in California, which seems to have more school boards, sewer boards, water boards, fire protection districts, community service districts, etc., per capita than anywhere else. The conjunction of the word “advisory” and a large number of candidates suggest a hypothesis: the tendency for the number of viable candidates to approach M+1 decreases with the salience of the election to voters.

  4. By the way, you used to be able to edit your own comments for five minutes or so after clicking “Plant Seed”. I, for one, found that almost indispensable. Case in point: the first sentence of #3 should be “I don’t think elected advisory bodies are all that common …”

  5. Bob, it is interesting to know that these “groups” are not common. I think there are a few others in San Diego County, for other semi-rural communities. They are advisory only, so that makes them necessarily less important than decision-making bodies like a school or water board. Or even the hospital board (I am still puzzling over the very idea of an elected hospital board). Yet the Planning Group apparently has a fair degree of influence, in that the County Board of Supervisors takes its advice seriously.

    As for Iceland, well, it has been cold here in San Diego for the season, but we’re still a long way from Iceland.

    In the “Baltoscandia” block, there was something on Iceland back in January, 2009.

    I fixed the error for you in #3, Bob. You are right, the “edit comments” feature stopped working. It might be that there is a new version that I need to download. Thanks for the reminder. (I probably will not get around to doing it till I get around to updating the Word Press software. It’s on the to-do list, but evidently pretty far down!)

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