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Local Media Errors
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Welcome to BurlingtonPol's new feature- "Local Media Errors" where I'll be bringing attention to some of the misleading statements and egregious errors of fact that frequently appear in our local media. Burlington Free Press, Seven Days and WCAX- this is your warning. You're not getting paid to get it wrong. From now on when you make a mistake, or when you're just too damn lazy to get the facts right, you'll have to answer to the Great and Powerful BurlingtonPol and my army of loyal readers.

The first person to receive this blog's swift and merciless justice is Sam Hemmingway from The Burlington Free Press. Today online and on the front page the physical newspaper above the fold, Hemmingway writes:
"A dejected Kurt Wright said he might challenge the instant runoff vote system that had him ahead in the contest for mayor of Burlington for two rounds of vote counting."
One could make a semantic argument that asking for a recount would "challenge" the system to prove the votes were counted correctly, but Sam should know damn well that what Kurt would be challenging is the count only, not instant runoff voting itself.

In my interview with him on February 22, Kurt wright said very cleary that he would not challenge IRV because it was supported by the voters. Kurt said:
"I was asked by Channel Three News when they talked about IRV last week if- because I was the only candidate that had some issues with IRV- I mean I think there's pros and cons to it- so they asked if I was elected would I work to overturn the system, and my answer is no, because voters voted for it. If there was any move to overturn IRV, I think it would have to be a citizen lead initiative."
Maybe Hemmingway worded it that way to stir-up more debate about IRV, but it's wrong, it's poor reporting, and I'm calling him on it.

Local error-riddled media- this is your wake up call. Get it right or be destroyed. The choice is yours.
posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 10:23 AM  
  • At March 04, 2009 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice, Haik! Indeed, the media in this town should be held accountable.

    Curiously, the BFP mayoral re-election article was unavailable online until mid-day today. Coincidence considering their endorsement? Maybe. Seems like big news to post lackadaisically online.

    If you're scouring the press for misleading news, keep your eye on John Briggs.

  • At March 04, 2009 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Haik... nice job overall.

    I've read in BFP, 7D, etc. that it was Montroll voters who listed Kiss as number 2 that gave Kiss the victory.

    But I'm guessing it was more a case of Montroll voters who listed Smith 2 and Kiss 3. (I think Smith did so poorly getting number 1 votes because he was very popular as a number 2 pick across the city.)

    This may seem subtle, but it's something to say that Kiss won because he was the third place pick of a significant block of voters.

    Put another way, the following ballot was, in the end, counted as a vote for Kiss...

    1. Montroll
    2. Smith
    3. Simpson
    4. Kiss
    5. Wright

    P.S. I can't believe that the People's Republic of Burlington is getting three more years of a Republican running the City... our esteemed CAO.

  • At March 04, 2009 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is true. And yes good job Haik. As I said earlier:

    IRV is inferior style of voting in cases where no one gets majority.

    A old-school run-off gives voters another chance to select among two candidates. With IRV you are voting for second among more than two.

    For example if I voted for Smith in a 4-way race and the top two were Wright and Kiss - I should spend my next vote on one of those and not on Simpson or Montroll. End of story. IRV is inferior democracy. Cost of elections is the worst argument I have ever heard when it comes to IRV.

  • At March 04, 2009 11:56 PM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    There's an interesting post on IRV here.

  • At March 05, 2009 12:06 AM, Blogger JayV said…

    Great idea, glad you thought of it, and I'll support, too! Frequently I see lousy and lazy reporting in the BFP; makes me wonder if they have a copy editor or fact checker down on College Street. Occasionally, I've blogged about the discrepancies, too. Thanks, Haik. - Jay Vos

  • At March 05, 2009 12:09 AM, Blogger JayV said…

    Oh yeah I saw tha post you noted, too; it was cross-posted over on GMD.

    BTW, I called Kurt today to urge him to demand a recount just to see if this IRV method of counting ballots is all its cracked up to be.

  • At March 05, 2009 12:51 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Excellent! Everyone should encourage Kurt to ask for a recount.

  • At March 05, 2009 1:01 AM, Blogger JayV said…

    Just saw Charity's post about
    IRV...even better than the one you cited:

    She's spot on.

  • At March 05, 2009 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That's correct, you should not spend your vote on Simpson or Montroll because neither of them were favored as people's first choice. There is no perfect system of voting but IRV is better than what was in place. The cost shouldn't be a consideration. About 12 people wouild end up voting in a regular runoff. These 12 people should decide who's mayor? With IRV everyone has the same info on which to make a decision.

  • At March 05, 2009 11:51 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    About 12 people wouild end up voting in a regular runoff. These 12 people should decide who's mayor?

    Fuckin' A YES.. If those twelve people are the only ones with the interest and the gumption and the commitment to drag their asses back to the polls and participate- then yes. They should decide the election.

  • At March 05, 2009 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Haik is 100% correct. A true run off is the way to go. Otherwise the winner is completley hypothetical.

    IRV asks the question: If by chance this might happen, who might you vote for. And if they by chance were also eliminated, who might you vote for.

    Expense and turnout are not excuses to go with a system that is fundamentally broken.

  • At March 06, 2009 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know....its the law to vote in some places (aka, Australia):

    While I understand people's argument that their "freedom" of whatever means they don't have to vote, I think there's an argument to be made for "encouraging" people to vote. Hell, in some developing countries, people travel days just to vote for a questionable government. That our voter turn out is so low should be a source of national embarrassment.

    The two reasons I've hear for IRV are 1) increase participation, and 2) it allows for 3rd (or in Burlington's case, 34rd, 4th, and 5th) party candidates.
    Now, reason #1 sure sounds like a away to enable laziness = "people won't come out a 2nd time, so we should make it easier". Nope, we shouldn't make it easier. Voting is a crucial part of a deliberative democratic state. That people don't get that or choose not to participate should count against them.
    Reason #2 seems to be a bit of a chicken/egg. Put it another way: if there were only 2 candidates, would we need something to determine who wins when no on gets 50%? Or, if there were only two choices, wouldn't someone have to get 51%? In other words, we have IRV, it seems to some degree, only because we have a strong 3rd party in Burlington. Which is to say, the likelihood of 51% is pretty slim. Why can't the rules on what constitute a "majority" reflect that reality?

    I agree that there's something odd about saying "well, your guy didn't win, so who else do you not hate?" In effect, people get more than one vote, as was stated previously, for a hypothetical runoff.

    Is it really wrong to ask people to vote, and then if they need to vote again, ask them to vote again?

    The more cynical side of me can see why people think IRV might be a favorable device for the Progs. Then again, who knows what people would have said if Wright won 3 rounds instead of just 2. But wait...2 out of 3 is 66.6%...isn't that a majority??? Ha.

  • At March 06, 2009 8:32 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Why can't the rules on what constitute a "majority" reflect that reality?

    A majority means more than half, Jonas. It's mathematically impossible for it to mean anything else. Previously in Burlington it required a plurality of at least 40% to become mayor.

  • At March 08, 2009 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, soooo, how does IRV get to a majority? The rise of multiple parties has led to that being impossible. Thus, doesn't that sort of, you know, contradict basic democratic theory? Unless we've become truly Madisonian...

    But when you think about it, IRV starts sounding a bit like coalition government. That is, "I can't have my 1st choice, so my vote...kind of (if I want it counted), gets counted for someone who stands a better chance of winning". Isn't that parliament?

    Again, I understand that rationale. I'm just still not convinced its a great solution.
    And at what point did 40% become the number?

  • At March 12, 2009 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Sam should know damn well that what Kurt would be challenging is the count only, not instant runoff voting itself."

    OF COURSE, hard Right-winger Kurt Wright is challenging IRV! Why do you think he cancelled the rest of the recount when it became clear that IRV was working just as it should be and he was going to end up *losing* again?? Please...your willful ignorance on this issue is becoming a real bore...

    There's nothing wrong with the IRV get over it...

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