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ranked choice voting

The Green Party owes Ken Paxton a thank-you note

He did them a solid, that’s for sure.

Turns out it is easy being Green

In the legal fight to exclude minor party candidates from the November ballot, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton took a flexible view of time and deadlines.

After the Texas GOP filed suit Aug. 21 to remove 44 Libertarians from the ballot for failure to pay a required candidate filing fee, Paxton told the Texas Supreme Court that there was plenty of time to pursue the challenge.

This week, however, Paxton told the same court that a Democratic bid to oust three Green Party candidates — filed four days before the unsuccessful GOP challenge — was begun much too late and needed to be overturned.

“The (Democrats’) dilatory conduct and unjustified delay in seeking relief imposed an undue burden on the Green Party officials,” Paxton told the court in a brief filed Monday.

[…]

[F]acing an Aug. 21 deadline to declare candidates ineligible, Democrats sued Aug. 17 to strike three Greens running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and Railroad Commission.

The Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals gave the Greens less than 48 hours to respond, then issued an Aug. 19 order declaring the three Green Party candidates ineligible for failure to pay the filing fee. The 2-1 ruling had two Democrats in the majority and one Republican dissenting.

The ruling drew the notice of Republican Party leaders, who quickly demanded that Libertarian leaders drop a long list of candidates for the same reason.

When those demands were rejected, Republican organizations and candidates asked the 3rd Court of Appeals to follow the precedent set in the Democratic challenge and order the Libertarians removed from the ballot.

But the GOP filed its challenge on Aug. 21, the deadline to declare candidates ineligible, and the appeals court tossed it out, ruling that there wasn’t time to hear from all parties and gather the necessary information before the deadline expired.

The GOP turned to the Texas Supreme Court, arguing that instead of challenging candidate eligibility under an expired deadline, it was challenging the Libertarians’ candidate applications as improper — giving them until Sept. 18 to seek court intervention.

Paxton, in a letter brief to the Supreme Court, agreed with the GOP interpretation of state election law.

“Under Texas law, there is still time for this Court to compel compliance,” Paxton told the court on Sept. 4.

The all-Republican Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Sept. 5 that the GOP and Paxton were looking at the wrong section of the Election Code on deadlines. The court concluded that the Libertarians could not be removed from the ballot because the GOP challenge was filed too late.

[…]

Then on Friday, the Green Party asked the Supreme Court to reinstate its three candidates, arguing that like the GOP, the Democrats relied on the wrong part of the Election Code, rendering their challenge void as well.

The court asked Paxton’s office for its opinion.

In Monday’s response, filed 10 days after arguing that the GOP had not acted too late in challenging Libertarian opponents, Paxton urged the court to reinstate the Green candidates because the Democrats waited too long to act and because the 3rd Court of Appeals engaged in a rushed process that didn’t give the Greens, other political parties and other candidates time to weigh in.

“The 3rd Court abused its discretion,” Paxton wrote.

The Supreme Court’s one-paragraph order to reinstate the Green candidates did not explain the court’s rationale.

See here for the background. We expect SCOTX to publish its opinion on this ruling today, so we may get some idea if it’s all a bunch of sophistry or if they can make a principled argument that the Greens were deprived of their right to respond to the Dems’ legal action in a timely manner, which was a part of the ruling against the GOP in the Libertarian purge attempt. That Ken Paxton was willing to be morally and conveniently flexible on the subject should come as no surprise, given everything we know about him and his character. The Republican Party of Texas has a longstanding willingness to help the Greens whenever they think it might benefit them. This time that support came from an elected official instead of a deep-pocketed donor. Whatever works.

There was a debate in the comments of the last post about ranked choice voting (RCV) being a solution to this kind of legal gamesmanship. The theory is that since the people who voted Green or Libertarian (or independent, or whatever else may have been on the ballot) would still be able to express their electoral support for whichever major party candidate they like as their backup selection, which in turn would reduce the incentive for the major parties to bump them off the ballot. The logic has merit, though the lack of RCV around the country means there’s no data to test that hypothesis.

In this case, the argument that had been made by both the Ds and the Rs is that the other parties’ candidates had violated the law by not paying the newly-mandated filing fees – you may note, the Dems did not challenge the three Greens who did pay their filing fees, just the three candidates who had not – and there is a long history of candidates being challenged because they failed to meet eligibility requirements. If the filing fee law continues to survive the lawsuits against it, and there are Greens and Libertarians who refuse to comply with it in 2022, I would fully expect them to be taken to court again, surely in a more expeditious fashion, and I would expect that even in an RCV-enabled world. This is a basic tool in the political toolbox, one that I would not expect to go away if the method of determining the winner of an election changes. That too is a testable question, and perhaps one day we’ll have an answer for it. For now, that’s how I see it.

Precinct analysis: 2019 At Large #4

We move now to the first of two open seat At Large races, where the candidates were many and the clarity was lacking. Here’s an abridged look at At Large #4:


Dist  Ericka Hillyer Baldwin   Dolce  Javier Plummer
====================================================
A      1,584   1,454   1,475   3,951   1,335   1,400
B      2,994     272   1,022     829   1,124   4,428
C      2,759   8,458   5,248   7,150   1,768   3,517
D      3,250   1,142   1,634   1,663   1,328   8,015
E      2,108   2,666   2,539   7,956   1,443   1,408
F      1,142     711     820   1,804     907   1,217
G      2,525   4,902   3,190   9,212   1,023   1,932
H      1,231   1,329   1,703   1,845   2,601   1,542
I        868     858     784   1,571   2,593   1,411
J        683     566     594   1,319     720     911
K      2,135   1,722   1,297   2,470   1,169   4,470
					
A     11.00%  10.10%  10.24%  27.44%   9.27%   9.72%
B     20.74%   1.88%   7.08%   5.74%   7.79%  30.67%
C      7.87%  24.12%  14.96%  20.39%   5.04%  10.03%
D     15.22%   5.35%   7.65%   7.79%   6.22%  37.55%
E      9.31%  11.78%  11.22%  35.15%   6.38%   6.22%
F     13.11%   8.16%   9.42%  20.72%  10.42%  13.98%
G      9.15%  17.76%  11.56%  33.37%   3.71%   7.00%
H      9.48%  10.23%  13.11%  14.20%  20.02%  11.87%
I      8.53%   8.43%   7.71%  15.44%  25.49%  13.87%
J     11.08%   9.18%   9.64%  21.39%  11.68%  14.78%
K     12.87%  10.38%   7.82%  14.89%   7.05%  26.95%

There were eleven candidates in the open seat At Large #4 race. Amanda Edwards’ decision to run for the US Senate changed this from a race between an incumbent and two or three challengers you’ve never heard of to a wide open race of 11 contenders you’ve mostly not heard of. Seriously, how many of the six names here do you recognize? How many of the five names I didn’t list can you think of? Most of these candidates raised little to no money and had campaign presences to match. How are people to decide for whom to vote?

Well, one way is by picking a name they recognize. In this race, that name was Anthony Dolcefino. How many votes do you think a first-time candidate who had raised about $12K as of the thirty-day report and whose name was Anthony Smith would have received? He did well in the Republican districts and he’s got Republican endorsements plus the firefighters. Basically, he’s Tony Buzbee at this point, minus ten million dollars.

Along those same lines, Letitia Plummer did well in the African-American districts, and has the Democrats behind her bid. She’ll be riding on Sylvester Turner’s coattails, and the better he does the better off she’ll be. This race is the closest proxy to the Mayor’s race, and the main challenge Plummer will face is ensuring that Turner voters go down the ballot. She can’t afford a 22% undervote rate in the runoff.

I don’t know how many more times we will have to learn the lesson that while there is room in a citywide race for a Nick Hellyar OR a Bill Baldwin to be viable, there is not room in citywide elections for a Nick Hellyar AND a Bill Baldwin to be viable. Hellyar was in the race first, having moved over from District C (along with Dolcefino) following Edwards’ announcement, while Baldwin entered later and raised more money in a short period of time than any of the other candidates. It wasn’t enough to matter.

There’s been some discussion in the comments of previous posts about ranked-choice elections and how they might work in municipal races. I’d like to point out that there would be 39,916,800 possible rankings of these candidates (that’s eleven factorial, for my fellow math nerds), which, you know, is a lot. I might consider ranked-choice voting as an option if it were done like Cy Young voting in MLB, where you pick your top five only. Honestly, even that may be too much – in this race, I can think of at most four candidates that would have been worth a spot on such a ballot of mine. Ranked-choice voting would enable us to get a winner on Election Day. It’s not at all clear to me we’d get results that are more representative or less goofy than what we get now.