The Ranked-Choice Voting Local Options Bill


Support the Ranked-Choice Voting Local Options Bill — Leave a comment in support of House Bill 1156 today!

HB 1156 has a public hearing scheduled Feb. 8, 2021 @ 1:30 in the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations

Here are links to the bill’s current schedule, and the video stream that will go live:

The House State Government and Tribal Relations has simultaneously scheduled a “possible” Executive Session on this bill for Thursday, Feb 11 at 10:00 am. Executive Sessions are where the committee votes on whether to move the bill forward. The public may listen in, but may not speak.

The members of the committee are Javier Valdez (D-46), Chair; Debra Lekanoff (D-40), Vice-Chair; Mike Volz (R-6), Ranking Minority Member; Jim Walsh (R-18), Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Laurie Dolan (D-22); Jenny Graham (R-6); and Mia Gregerson (D-33).

Gregerson, Lekanoff, Dolan, and Walsh are all co-sponsors of the bill, so it looks as if it has a pretty good chance of passing to the next stage. Walsh is the first Republican to co-sponsor any form of ranked-choice voting bill in recent years.

The Actions?

1) Particularly if you are in the same district as any of the committee members, go to the bill’s comment page and indicate your support. Here’s the link:

If you are in the same district as any of the co-sponsors on the committee, please also thank them for being co-sponsors.

2) Go to the page for the Feb 8 hearing and register your support. Here’s the House committee sign-in page:

You’ll have to select the State Government and Tribal Relations committee and then the Feb 8 hearing. At that point you can choose among offering written testimony, testifying live, or simply registering your support for the bill. You choose! If you want to testify live, best to register for doing that ASAP. With the affairs of the legislature all being conducted remotely, many more members of the public than usual are participating, and all the available slots for live testimony may be taken up right away.

Also, please note that HB 1156 combines moving all elections to even-numbered years with the Local Option to adopt ranked-choice voting. There is hope that the portion of the bill moving elections will be removed, but absent that, it’s not clear that the bill should be supported without reservation. For one thing, it would mean that County Auditors would have nothing for their elections staffs to do in the odd-numbered years with regrettable affects on continuity of employment and the quality of the staffs.

Click on ‘Support’ and leave a comment on House Bill 1156 today!

Sign up with FairVote Washington for more information and updates on Ranked-Choice Voting.

Public Bank Bill in the State Legislature (SB 5188)

Support a Washington state public bank — Leave a comment in support of Senate Bill 5188 today!

Presently all of the revenue of our state, local and tribal governments is deposited with private-sector banks. All of the financing that our various governments obtain is issued by those same banks. The profits from these two aspects of handling our money float off to the shareholders of those banks.

With a public bank, the profits would be returned to us. What’s more, unlike a private-sector bank, a public bank could invest in projects that are in the public interest, just because they are in the public interest, and whether or not they earned the maximum possible return for the bank.

Senator Hasegawa (D-11) has been introducing public banking bills in the state legislature ever since the 2008 Wall Street scandal. This year the prime sponsor of SB 5188 is Patty Kuderer (D-48), and for the first time ever a public banking bill has received a hearing, which took place on Jan 28, 2021.

SB 5188 would set up the Washington State Public Bank, a cooperative bank which would be owned by the state and any local or tribal governments that chose to join. It would be authorized to invest in infrastructure projects of the state or of any local or tribal government, whether or not a member. It would be governed by a nine-member board, with five members elected by members of the cooperative, three public members with relevant expertise appointed by the Governor, and the State Treasurer serving as the remaining member. Several layers of security precautions are aimed at obtaining for the bank one of the three highest levels of credit ratings – and, not so incidentally, protection against default.

For various reasons the public bank’s costs of operation would be lower than a private-sector bank. It would not have to have branch offices. It would not pay federal income taxes. It would not pay the enormous salaries and bonuses that private-sector bank executives frequently get. For these reasons, it would likely be able to offer lower interest rates to its governmental borrowers, increasing their financial capacity.

In the world as a whole, 23 countries have public banks of various kinds and they hold collectively about 40% of the world’s banking assets. In the United States the foremost example of a public bank is the Bank of North Dakota, which has brought its aid and assistance to the people, local businesses and local banks of that state for a hundred years. Most recently it brought North Dakota through the 2008 collapse in better shape than any other state, with proportionately fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures and less unemployment.

The League of Women Voters of Washington has decided to support passage of SB 5188 because, at least in part, it would deprivatize a fundamental part of our economic and financial infrastructure.


SB 5188 had a public hearing in the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee on Jan 28.

The bill has been scheduled by that committee for an Executive Session on Feb 9. An executive session is where a committee votes on whether to pass a bill along in the legislative process. Members of the public may listen in to an executive session, but may not speak.

The members of the Committee are Mark Mullet (D-5), Chair; Bob Hasegawa (D-11), Vice-Chair; Perry Dozier (R-16), Ranking Member; Sharon Brown (R-8); David Frockt (D-46); Steve Hobbs (D-44); and Lynda Wilson (R-17).

The Action

Go to the bill’s comment page and register your support for the bill with your district’s three legislators. Urge them to support the bill and to work with their colleagues in getting the bill out of committee. This is especially important if you live in the same district as one of the committee members. Here is the link to the bill’s comment page:

As you will see, the comment page has space for a short comment. If your Senator is one of the sponsors of the bill, add a comment thanking them for sponsoring it. You can see the list of sponsors here:

Click on ‘Support’ and leave a comment on Senate Bill 5188 today!

Green Party Statewide Membership meeting – Feb. 3, 2021 at 7 PM

Wednesday Feb. 3rd at 7 PM PST – 9 PM PST

We will discuss news and happenings with the national Green Party, and give input for upcoming decisions at the national level regarding state affiliation of Green Party chapters in RI and GA.

We will hear updates from our Green Party US committee representatives (see below) and our local Green Party chapters (Alice Green – Seattle; Molly Feather – South Sound; Nina Manuel – Mid-Columbia; Scott Thompson – Whatcom).

We will also explore options for Green candidates to run for local office in 2021 and set the date for our Spring Membership meeting.

Here’s the link to join the meeting on February 3rd at 7 PM:

The Green Party Needs YOU!

Dear Green Party Members and Supporters,

The Greens are a political party, unlike all the myriad other progressive organizations in Washington State. This means we are positioned to run candidates – candidates who refuse to take money from special interests and who promise to govern using the Ten Key Values as a guide. If you believe in a better, more progressive America, the Greens are your party!

You already know this.  But we cannot deliver real gains until we elect Greens to office.

We need good candidates to run for elected offices. Who is a good candidate?

It could be YOU!

If you find yourself frustrated with local politics and think you could do a better job, why not consider running for office? GPWA has experience in what it takes to run a successful campaign, and we can help. You do not necessarily need experience in government – only a willingness to learn. There are a number of races around the state where incumbents are re-elected with no opponent. You could offer a more progressive choice to the electorate.

Another way you can help advance the Green agenda is to volunteer to work on Green campaigns. The Green Party endorses Green candidates or gives preferred status to candidates who agree with much of the Green agenda. By volunteering, you will gain inside knowledge of how a campaign works and what running for office is really like. Volunteering is a great way to learn what it takes to be a candidate, and if your candidate wins, you may have more influence over what happens in your district or city.

Here’s information on candidate filing week (May 17-21, 2021) and offices open for election in 2021:

We hope that you will join us and promote electoral activism for the greater good!

If you would like to run for office or volunteer to support a Green Party campaign, please let us know!

To be considered for GPWA endorsement or preferred candidate status, please download and complete our Candidate Questionnaire so that we may consider supporting your campaign:

Word version | PDF version

Film Screening — 2040: The Regeneration

Join us for a special community screening!

2040: The Regeneration

Actions and Climate Solutions available today that will shape a Sustainable tomorrow!

About this Event

Online film screening —

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM PST

This is THE YEAR for climate action, and this film provides the positive solutions that we can implement today. It is a great cure for eco-anxiety and the perfect way to inspire you to action!

#JoinTheRegeneration and book your tickets today!

​​Award-winning director Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film) embarks on a journey to explore what the future could look like by the year 2040 if we simply embraced the best solutions already available to improve our planet and shifted them rapidly into the mainstream. Structured as a visual letter to his 4-year-old daughter, Damon blends traditional documentary with dramatized sequences and high-end visual effects to create a vision board of how these solutions could regenerate the world for future generations.

Click here to watch a trailer and to reserve your spot.

Note: this screening has an attendance limit. Register now to confirm your spot!


Become a GPWA member or update your membership:

Keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook
Donations always appreciated and put to good use!

🌻 #WeAreGreen

Only We Can Save Ourselves

On Wednesday January 6th, Donald J. Trump incited insurrections and physical attacks on our Nation’s Capitol and state legislatures across the country. Here in WA, far-right activists attempted to breach and occupy the Governor’s mansion. The Green Party of Washington condemns these actions by President Trump and his far-right supporters, including the complicity from the Washington State Patrol (WSP).

The Green Party has in the past supported organizers occupying the WA state legislature for their rights. In contrast to the friendly solidarity between police and brownshirts we saw on Wednesday, organizers from Black Lives Matter, Protectors of the Salish Sea, and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators have been consistently met with brutal, violent responses from the WSP. Just a few weeks ago on December 12, WSP coordinated with fascist demonstrators to intimidate and violently repress anti-fascist counter-demonstrators, ending with three counter-demonstrators arrested and one shot. In July, while WSP was hauling Black Lives Matter demonstrators out of their cars for “blocking traffic,” they mysteriously allowed a far-right activist to breach their blockade in his car and run over BLM protestors, killing one and injuring dozens.

The reason WSP did not respond to the actions on Wednesday the way they did to these movements is clear: WSP’s primary mission is not to protect the public but to protect the ruling class from popular movements. Fascists do not threaten the ruling class: they are the ruling class’s most zealous pawns. As a consequence of this, we also know that calls to tighten the security state in the name of “anti-terrorism” will only end in further repression of countervailing, pro-democratic movements rather than real and present dangers to public safety.

We must instead recognize that as long as we ignore the root causes of these reactions then we cannot defeat them. As long as our communities face growing poverty and inequality, as long as our public safety institutions are rooted in racism and overrun with fascist sympathizers, as long as we ignore the waste of human lives, conscience, and resources in war, as long the water levels continue to rise and our cities are threatened by cinder and smoke, the dangers posed by revanchist movements will only escalate.

Trump has conclusively (and repeatedly) demonstrated his unfitness for office and must not be permitted to remain in office even for two more weeks. WSP, and the capitalist system they protect, have done the same. Therefore, The Washington State Green Party demand:

  • Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
  • The House of Representatives to act immediately to impeach him, and the Senate convict. This is the only legal method to prevent Trump from running again.
  • Once removed, Trump must be criminally prosecuted.
  • We must resist calls to increase state censorship and violence, which regardless of intent will be overwhelmingly inflicted on popular, anti-racist and anti-colonial movements.
  • The Washington Legislature must pass a bill this session replacing the Washington State Patrol with a new, community-controlled Department of Public Safety built upon anti-racist principles of criminal justice.
  • In the meantime, Governor Inslee must use all the powers available to him to root out and prosecute far-right infiltrators in the Washington State Patrol.
  • The Washington State Government must enact deep changes to our economy to eradicate poverty and inequality. This must start with fixing our tax code so that the poorest people in WA do not pay the highest tax rates. Instead of sales and property taxes which hit the working poor and middle class the hardest, the Green Party supports taxes on capital gains, land value, and other sources of rent-seeking behavior that drive inequality.
  • Governor Inslee must declare a Climate Emergency and begin immediate efforts to alleviate the Climate Crisis. While many Trump supporters are climate deniers, we in the Green Party have no illusions about the “opportunities” fascist activists will see in the climate crisis. We must say “no” to ecofascism before it arrives.
  • We must take immediate steps to reduce polarization and build confidence in democratic institutions, including serious reforms to our elections such as the implementation of proportional representation, ranked-choice voting, and more opportunities for direct democracy.
  • We must eliminate the large influence of corporations on individuals’ lives, and accompanying alienation, by seizing the assets of large monopolies like Amazon and empowering workers to directly manage their workplaces.

    “More of the same” will not defeat fascism, because more of the same is what gave us fascism. Anything short of radical action and direct struggle will fall short. We call on all people against the devolution of our Republic into autocracy to demand these immediate actions. Only we can save ourselves.

Become a GPWA member or update your membership:

GPWA Vision Board: Regenerative Politics

MONDAY, JANUARY 4, 2021 AT 6:30 – 7:30 PM PST

General Membership of GPWA meet up on Jitsi

Agenda: Vision Board for Regenerative Politics in Washington State

Bring your ideas Greens! Here are some brainstorming prompts:

– Permaculture goes beyond agriculture that does not harm the environment into agriculture that actually heals the land; in a relative vein how do we amplify Eco-socialist principles to create a restorative political process?

– how do Greens empower the Grassroots?

– how do Greens promote sustainable communities here in Washington?

– how do Greens ‘on both sides of the mountains’ show up for each other?

Agenda Items
[Subject to Change]:

-Activist Burnout (Alice)

-Engagement of Millennials (Mara)

-VisionBoard/Brainstorming (Round table/Everyone)

Become a GPWA member or update your membership:

Click to join the meeting on January 4th at 6:30 PM:

To join by phone instead, tap this: +1.512.647.1431,,1598669430#

🌻 #WeAreGreen

Creating a Cabinet Level Department of National Equity

By Frank Ellsworth Lockwood

This article is about Racial tension and moving toward a Green Party Policy. It is meant to be a conversation starter, and obviously not the final word on GP national policy.

By way of disclosure: Frank Ellsworth Lockwood is an old White man from a Protestant upbringing. Now that we have that out of the way, his family is multi-racial and he worked for fifteen years as a resource room teacher (and at times as a teacher’s consultant) in Migrant and Bilingual Education in Hermiston, Oregon. He is a co-founder of the Green Party of the Mid-Columbia and now resides in Kennewick, Washington. Lockwood holds a master’s degree in Education from Eastern Oregon State University.

In my opinion, the Green Party needs to come up with a better response to racial tensions in the USA. These tensions and the militarization of police, indeed the state of policing, are closely related and there may be some overlap for purposes of this paper.

  1. Create a Department of National Equity (DNE): Racial equity is such an important issue right now that it needs to be elevated to the status of a Department of State alongside other departments such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Energy.
    1. This should be a Department overseen and run by members of specifically targeted groups such as blacks, browns, LGBT people, women
      1. Black, Native, women and LGBT inclusion
      2. Black, Native, women and LGBT oversight
      3. Roughly equal numbers of men and women and proportional inclusion of non-binary genders
  2. Create a national standard of policing:  The DNE should be charged with creating a national standard of policing. There are two ways we could go with this, depending on how much support we have. States could be compelled to comply by withholding of federal funds. Although states could refuse to comply, the DNE will exert pressure by pointing out flaws and failures to comply in each of the states, shaming them in nationally televised “exposure reports.”
  3. Power to approve/disapprove education funds: The DNE will exert influence over the distribution of Federal education dollars to the various states or school districts. Schools that do not provide an equal education to minorities will receive federal education funds tied to specific evidence of progress.[1]
  4. Prevent and revoke the militarization of police forces.
  5. Make the law Explicitly prevent the President from using the regular army, mercenaries, or militias against the people of the United States.
  6. Pass laws forbidding the deployment of regular military forces against the wishes of the state and city governments for less than treasonous reasons (by which I mean to imply, civil war or attempts to militarily overthrow the government).


[1] As an aside: Schools should not be allowed to redirect 1.5 and 2.0 full time equivalency (FTE) funds to their general funds when those have been designated based upon at-risk or needy populations such as migrant, educable mentally retarded or other similar factors. Funds over 1 FTE that are distributed for the purpose of serving high-need or at-risk students should be applied directly to those programs that directly meet those needs. Likewise, funds distributed to address inequities must be spent for that purpose, not to support the school’s general fund for education, regular school sports, etc.

2020 Candidates and Green Party Voter’s Guide

2020 Green Party Candidate Endorsements

Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker for U.S. President and Vice President

Washington State Legislative Candidates

Sherae Lascelles for State Representative, District 43, Position 2: Preferred candidate. Sherae Lascelles is running as a grassroots community organizer with the Seattle People’s Party and committed to the Green Party 10 key values.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge

Sharonda Amamilo: Green Party Preferred candidate.

Additional State and Legislative Candidates, Referendums, Advisory votes, and Resolutions

Consider the candidate endorsements featured by the following organizations:

The Stranger Endorsements: Please take into consideration these progressive-leaning endorsements for state referendums, advisory votes, resolutions, and candidates.

Note: please vote for Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker for U.S. President and Vice President!

Looking for more candidate endorsements or Green Party write-in candidates?

Currently the Green Party in Washington State is mostly focused on COVID solidarity efforts, local races, and building Left Unity. While we have no Green Party members actively campaigning for statewide or legislative office at this time, we are supporting Sherae Lascelles campaign for the State legislature (see above) and will have candidates running for City Councils, Conservation Districts, and other local offices next year in the hopes of building for a serious statewide run in 2024, especially if we can get Ranked Choice Voting enacted by then.
If you or someone you know is interested in running for local or statewide office as a Green, now is a good time to start thinking about it and to get involved!
Green volunteer (Write-in) candidates for Statewide races:
Governor:  Paul Wagner, Protectors of the Salish Sea
Lt. Governor:  Noah Martin, South Sound Green Party
Green Party of Washington State, PO Box 70493, Seattle, WA 98127



Ranked-Choice Voting in 2020

Another Year When Ranked-Choice Voting Would Make Our Votes Really Count and When the Top-Two Primary Cuts Us Off Short

Yikes! Thirty-six candidates for governor. Thirteen Democratic candidates for president. Eight candidates for Congress in the Second Congressional District.

These numbers are welcome signs of political engagement. It’s too bad the electoral system that we have (the winner-take-all system, coupled in Washington with the top-two primary) can’t handle numbers like these.

These numbers are welcome signs of political engagement. It’s too bad the electoral system that we have (the winner-take-all system, coupled in Washington with the top-two primary) can’t handle numbers like these.

It’s not that the computers can’t count that high. It’s rather that the method of counting itself systematically disenfranchises voters and produces unrepresentative results. This is a disenfranchisement not connived at by venial election officials, but something that is built in to the system itself.

More and more people at large are seeing how far winner-take-all elections take us from representative government. Two distinguished and respected national groups have recently joined the crowd of supporters. The American Academy of Arts and Scientists have just published a report entitled “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century.” They put adoption of ranked-choice voting at the top of their list, second only to increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives (an interesting topic in itself). (Links to this report and other sources can be found under “Sources” at the end of this article.)

The League of Women Voters of the United States has adopted criteria for a good election method. Among them are encouraging voter participation and voter engagement, encouraging those with minority opinions to participate, minimizing wasted votes, and promoting sincere voting over strategic voting. Only ranked-choice voting meets these criteria.

The national media that have come on board include The New York TimesHarvard Business Review, and Freakonomics. Our local media have been active also: The [Everett] Daily HeraldCascadia Weekly, Northwest Citizen, and of course Whatcom Watch. And, if you don’t check any other links, try the one to the hilarious sendup that Hasan Minhaj conducts as part of his Patriot Act series on Netflix.

A year in advance, The [Everett] Herald op-ed predicted the widespread disenfranchisement of voters that actually occurred and that was an almost inevitable result of conducting the Democratic Presidential Primary as a winner-take-all election.

Let’s see how that happened.

Wasted Votes: Presidential Primary
There were 13 candidates on the printed ballot. By the time the primary date occurred, only two candidates remained in the race, the others having conceded. In the meantime, nearly 400,000 voters had cast their single vote for one of the candidates who had dropped out. These voters’ participation in the election was effectively fruitless. That is to say, about a quarter of those who voted wasted their time — except perhaps as a demonstration yet again, if one were needed, the system in which they were participating was inadequate as a way to achieve representation for the peoples’ views.

Here’s another feature: neither Biden nor Bernie was anywhere close to receiving a majority of the votes in the primary. Biden, the leader, was short in round numbers by 188,000 votes, and received less than 40 percent of the turnout. Do we really want a system of voting that produces minority winners as a matter of course when there are more than two candidates?

If the election had been conducted using ranked-choice voting, many voters who had voted for one of those who dropped out would likely have assigned their second choice (or third or fourth choice) to Biden or Bernie. Because the counting would have gone through several rounds, their votes would most likely eventually have counted. Many fewer voters would have cast votes that had no effect. And the winner would be a majority winner.

But let’s look at the results of the presidential primary even more closely. Biden’s vote total in the primary was a little over 21,000 more than Bernie’s. With that slim margin, Bernie might easily have been the winner had the election been conducted using the ranked-choice method. The 142,000 votes for Elizabeth Warren alone would likely have given him the edge.

So, on that level also, the winner-take-all election that actually took place most likely failed to reflect the views of the voters.

Not a very good start for an election year!

One good thing about the Democratic Presidential Primary: the turnout was pretty high, likely about 60 percent of Democratic voters.

Primary for Governorship
In the governor’s race, the story is essentially the same: many candidates and a vote that must be given all or nothing to only one of them. The result is many, many wasted votes, which is to say votes that don’t result in representation.

This primary is an extreme example of how many votes in a winner-take-all election can count for nothing. In the strict sense in which political scientists use the term, a wasted vote is either a vote for a losing candidate or a surplus vote for a winning candidate. Neither of these two kinds of votes yields an increase in representation. Inslee has received about one and a quarter million votes. His next competitor has received a quarter of a million. The remaining candidates share over three-quarters of a million votes between them. The votes for candidates other than the top two have achieved no representation and are wasted. Of the votes for Inslee, a million votes are surplus (more than he needed to get into the general election), and so are equally wasted. Of the votes for Culp, roughly 200,000 are surplus to what he needed to beat Freed, his next competitor. In total in this primary, 1.8 million votes (three-quarters of all the votes) are wasted!

You can make the calculation for the primary in the Second Congressional District.

No wonder people think their votes don’t count! In every winner-take-all election, most votes actually don’t count towards achieving representation.

Primaries: Beyond-Use Date
When primaries were first devised during the Progressive Era, the aim was to put the voters in charge of selecting the candidates of each party. Until then, choosing the candidates had been in the hands of Democratic and Republican party bosses. Boss Tweed, of the New York City Democratic Party machine, was one of those who understood the importance of controlling the nominating process. But, he only “controlled” for a time. Eventually, he had to flee New York as a deck hand on an ocean liner, was apprehended in Spain, was returned to New York and convicted on 200 counts of various kinds of corruption and theft. He died in jail.

Washington’s “top-two” primary sets all candidates for a given position against one another, no matter what their political leanings, to see which two will go through to the general election in November. It’s a primary just for the sake of having a primary. There’s actually no good reason to cut down the field in this way — or to incur the public expense — especially when the remedy is at hand in the form of ranked-choice voting.

Here’s another practicality of primaries. Younger voters barely vote in them at all. Of those aged 18-24 (post-millennials), about half are registered to vote, but only 4 percent of these vote in primaries. Of millennials (those aged 25-35), about 65 percent are registered, and only 9 percent of these vote in primaries. By contrast, 90 percent of eligible people over 60 typically are registered to vote, and, of these, 60 percent vote in primaries. This is unbalanced.

The effective exclusion of student voters is worsened because they often register at one address (let’s say, their college address), and then, when the primary ballots are mailed out in August, are staying at a different address (let’s say, the beach). As a matter of policy, the post office does not forward ballots! There is a way out: the student in question can call the local auditor’s office and request the ballot be mailed to the address where the student will be staying over the summer — but why have we set things up to be so difficult? This is yet another form of voter suppression, and one that has been in effect for a long time.

Voters of every age turn out less often in the primaries than they do in the general elections. Often, the most partisan voters vote in the primaries, with the result that the most partisan candidates are the ones we are left to vote on in November, another false choice for the voters.

The combination of the spoiler effect and the artificial constraint of “top-two-ism” exacerbates one of the worst tendencies of winner-take-all elections: to restrict elections to two parties.

A further defect is the possibility of producing really unrepresentative results. For example, in the 2016 primary election for state Treasurer, three Democrats split 52 percent of the vote, and two Republicans split 48 percent of the vote. In the general election, the voters got to choose between the two Republicans!

So, with Washington state’s very odd “top-two” primary, as I summarized in my July 2019 Whatcom Watch article, we get a voting method that:

a. “doesn’t select a given party’s candidate (the original purpose of primaries),

b. unnecessarily limits the field that the voters can choose from,

c. has the potential to produce a really unrepresentative result,

d. leaves out the younger (and older) voters at an important early stage of the election process, and

e. takes a chunk out of the public treasury in order to achieve these curious aims.”

Elections Without Handcuffs
Lisa Ayrault, director of FairVote Washington, tells a story of the time when she was a middle school math teacher 30 years ago. She took her seventh grade math students through the various different voting methods. They didn’t pick a system they thought was the best, but it was very clear to those seventh graders that the winner-take-all system was the worst you could have.

When we adopted it in 1789, constituting the government out of people who were elected was a major step forward. At that time, winner-take-all was the only known way for conducting elections. Since then things have changed a lot.

What is so bad about winner-take-all elections? To begin with, there is the spoiler effect, sometimes known as the perceived need to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” People are very often afraid to vote for the candidate they really like for fear it will throw the election to a person they really can’t stand. They are voting their fear rather than voting for what they want. It’s the election method itself that puts them in these handcuffs. It means: the results do not reflect what the people really want.

It also means the election system itself shepherds people into voting for just two parties, when it’s perfectly clear there are many more than just two points of view — another way in which our political system misrepresents our views.

The constraints imposed by the spoiler effect are bad enough, but let’s talk a little about gerrymandering. Years ago, Mark McDaniel, an unusually frank Republican politician who was then a state senator in North Carolina, accurately described what redistricting is intended to do in these United States (see quote in middle column). The League of Women Voters recently estimated that 90 percent of the seats in Congress are effectively taken out of the hands of the voters by this corruption of our elections. The politicians realize this, and, under cover of their “polarization” dramas, are firmly united in preserving the gerrymandering system. It keeps them in office whether they do the public’s bidding or not! Not having to pay attention to voters, they are free to conduct the business of their major donors — and, as political scientists have shown, that is the business that they conduct, not ours (see Page and Gilens, “Democracy in America?” in sources).

In Washington state, the gerrymandering is done in bipartisan fashion. I described how that works in the July 2019 issue of Whatcom Watch.

With winner-take-all elections, we can vote all we want, but the politicians have insulated themselves from it having any effect. As I am increasingly hearing from people who, weary with the falseness of our system, are resorting to cynicism: “If voting did make a difference, they wouldn’t allow it.”

Turning the Corner
With ranked-choice voting, you don’t have either of these two structural problems. People can vote freely for the candidates they like. As long as they have marked down more than one choice, their voting for their real favorite can’t throw the election to the bad, bad candidate.

Better yet, gerrymandering becomes effectively impossible. That’s because, if it’s adopted in its multiwinner form, it produces proportional representation. Let’s unpack that idea a little.

Up to now in this article, we’ve been talking about single-winner ranked-choice voting. That kind of voting is suitable for offices like mayor or governor where there is only one office-holder. One of the problems with the current Washington system is we apply single-winner ideas even when we are electing a body, such as the legislature or a county council (or port district, or PUD, or school board, and on and on).

From the point of view of a voter filling out a ballot, multiwinner ranked-choice voting is just like the single-winner type. You rank as many candidates as you like. There are several representatives from each district and the vote counting is a little different, but the end result is that representation on those bodies will be in proportion to the views of the voters. In other words, if 40 percent of the voters have a particular point of view, that point of view will be able to get 40 percent of the representation in their district.

How finely grained the resulting proportional representation is depends on how many representatives there are per district, but, if the system were properly set up, conservatives who happened to live in western Washington could be represented by someone they voted for, for example, and progressives who live in eastern Washington could likewise be represented.

Gerrymandering is one problem. Another is that when you have elections in the single-winner form, a bare plurality of voters can get all the representation. That’s a particular problem where elections are conducted at-large. We have some of these in Whatcom County (some of the seats on the County Council and all the seats on the Bellingham City Council, for example).This is the problem the voters of Yakima County have been facing, a situation which we’ll talk about just below.

Experience shows that where ranked-choice voting is adopted, people who would not have considered running are more likely to run — and to be elected. This includes women, racial and ethnic minorities, and third parties. In other words, our elected bodies begin to fulfill John Adams’ ideal: that they should be a “mirror” to the public.

More than that, in a crowded field like the recent Democratic Presidential primary, candidates would not have to shout at one another about their differences, especially when, for the most part, they share values and aims as many of those Democratic candidates did. Where ranked-choice voting is adopted, the amount of negative campaigning tends to decrease.

Yakima: Representation for All
In Yakima County, 48 percent of the people are Latinx. They have been unable to elect one of their own to the County Commission for the last 20 years. Under Washington’s brand new Voting Rights Act, local plaintiffs and state groups have sued, and proposed ranked-choice voting as the remedy. As the Voting Rights Act requires, they notified the commission six months in advance. Sadly, the commission did nothing. The outcome is likely to be a court order to implement ranked-choice voting. This will allow this significant minority to achieve representation in proportion to its numbers. Something similar recently happened in Eastpointe, Michigan, using the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court
I joined the legal profession years ago in part because I so admired the civil rights decisions the Supreme Court of the United States was making. It wasn’t too long before I realized: what the Supreme Court had made, the Supreme Court could unmake. Rather much later, I realized what the Supremes were doing both in the making and the unmaking was altering and then re-altering the Constitution. They were a continuing Constitutional convention consisting of a tiny minority assembled without having been appointed for that purpose by the people that they were governing. Way back in the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supremes had appointed themselves!

I won’t go into some of their most extraordinary constitutional “discoveries” — that corporations are persons, that “separate but equal” was okay, that money equals speech and therefore that political contributions by the rich cannot be restrained. I won’t even go into their long period overturning any kind of legislation providing benefits for workers or other social causes under the doctrine (never before seen in law) of “substantive due process.”

For now, I’ll only mention their recent decisions relating to partisan gerrymandering. There was briefly cause for hope when they took up a case involving flagrant partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin (the Wickford v. Gill case) and equally flagrant Democratic Party gerrymandering in Maryland. Then-Justice Kennedy resigned and Kavanaugh was appointed. The result was a decision declaring that partisan gerrymandering was a “political” question (Suprem-ese for “we won’t go there”) that could best be solved by state legislatures, the “political” branch. Pay no attention to the fact that it was the legislature that set up the system of partisan election-rigging in the first place.

As Mr. Dooley said years ago, “No matter whether the Constitution follows the flag or not, the Supreme Court follows the election returns.”

If that’s what they do, then we should be able to elect them.

FairVote Leads
For much of the last several years, I’ve been supporting a statewide movement to adopt ranked-choice voting. The organization leading this effort is a nonpartisan nonprofit called FairVote Washington. It’s affiliated with the national FairVote organization, and there are similar efforts all over the country. In November, ranked-choice voting will be on the ballot in Massachusetts, Alaska, North Dakota, and perhaps Arkansas. The state of Maine now uses it in all its federal and state elections.

FairVote has been promoting a bill in the Washington Legislature that would allow local jurisdictions to adopt ranked-choice voting if they wanted to do that. This coming year, it will present more bills for the Legislature to consider. They would provide for ranked-choice voting for state-level offices and for a uniform system around the state. And, if the Legislature won’t act, FairVote is eyeing the initiative route.

You can be part of this. Over 6,000 Washingtonians have signed on as supporters of ranked-choice voting in the last year, including well over 100 current candidates for state or local office. All this and more you can see on the FairVote Washington website ( If you go to the website, you can sign up, too (or even donate!).

Join us. It will help make your vote count.

 American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century,” 2020:

•  Bird, Stoney, “Ranked-choice voting supported by Bellingham City Council,” Northwest Citizen, March 4, 2020:

•  Bird, Stoney, “This Year We Could Really Use Ranked Choice Voting: And here is a chance to try it out!” Whatcom Watch, July, 2019:

•  Bird, Stoney, “Washington: A Democracy Leader: But there is too much big money in our politics,” Whatcom Watch, May, 2020:

•  Cole, Colin, “With crowded field, caucus best for state Democrats: Unless Ranked-choice voting is used, the presidential primary could disenfranchise many voters,” The [Everett] Herald, March 19, 2019:

•  Dubner, Stephen, “America’s Hidden Duopoly,” Freakonomics, October 31, 2018:

•  Gehl, Katherine M., and Michael E. Porter, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America: A strategy for reinvigorating our democracy,” Harvard Business Review: (The authors examine the politics industry — worth many billions of dollars to all the consultants and others involved — and ask if it is competitive enough to allow voters some actual choice. This is a conventional and useful kind of question for business school professors to ask about an industry. Their conclusion: it isn’t.)

•  Page, Benjamin, and Martin Gilens, “Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It,” University of Chicago Press, 2020. (The authors examined over 1,700 decisions that Congress made during the decades of the 1980s and the 1990s and compared those decisions with public opinion as expressed through polling. The correlation between the strength of public opinion about an issue and what Congress decided was nil. If the public happened to want what rich people wanted, they got what they wanted 80 percent of the time. Readers should note that the study period was long before Citizens United, but after the Supreme Court’s “money is speech” decisions of the 1970s.)

•  Johnson, Tim, The Gristle: “Vote,” Cascadia Weekly, July 25, 2018:

•  League of Women Voters of the United States, “Proposed Concurrence on Electoral Systems,” (At the recent biennial national conference of the League, these principles were overwhelmingly adopted as ones that state Leagues could “concur” in and support.)

•  Minhaj, Hasan, We’re Doing Elections Wrong, Patriot Act, Netflix, June 22, 2020:

• The New York Times, “The Primaries Are Just Dumb: There’s a better way to do democracy,” Feb. 26, 2020: (The editorial board of the Times notes that with ranked-choice voting there would be no need for a primary, and that candidates who shared views — as the candidates in the Democratic Presidential Primary did to a great extent — could support one another instead of tearing at one another’s throats.)

Stoney Bird worked as a corporate lawyer for many years. In 2011-12, he was one of the leaders of the campaign for a Bellingham Community Bill of Rights that would have called for a ban on the transportation of coal through Bellingham, and would have acknowledged the rights of Bellingham ecosystems to exist and thrive. More recently, he has been part of the movement for adoption of ranked-choice voting. Seeing that people are removing Confederate monuments all over the country, he has decided to do the same with the Confederate monument of his own name, and will no longer call himself Stonewall Jackson Bird.