Reforming democracy


By Steven T. Jones
Wtih ranked choice voting up and working well in San Francisco, four other communities around the country are poised to approve it in the upcoming election. In addition to Prop. O in Oakland, ranked choice is on the ballot in Davis, Minneapolis, and Pierce County, Washington.
"I see these four elections as key. If we can sweep them, that's a tipping point," activist and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic said last night at a Prop. O fundraiser in the law office of Matt Gonzalez, who championed the San Francisco measure while serving on the Board of Supervisors.
Novoselic got involved in politics back in his Nirvana days, fighting to overturn a Seattle law that prevented people under 18 from attending concerts.
"Along the way, I got enthusiastic about democracy and participation," he said. But even among those working on his campaigns, many felt their votes for candidates didn't count. Reading SF-based democracy reform leader Steven Hill's book, "Fixing Elections," he learned about the concept of the "surplus voter" whose preference for a candidate other than the Democrat or Republican is essentially discarded. With ranked choice, voters can cast a ballot for their favorite candidate and also for the lesser of two evils, thus allowing minor parties to gain support. As such, Novoselic called democracy reform "the Holy Grail of the Green Party."
Hill said he is cheered by the current situation. "It's starting to happen, but these things take time. It's a big country, but we're making progress."