Earlier this week, I wrote about Propositions 20 and 27, which would change the process of redistricting in California. There is another measure on the ballot that also concerns the political process, in this case Proposition 25, which would alter the rules for passage of the state budget.
Currently, the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in each house to pass a budget. Prop. 25 would allow each house of the legislature to pass the budget bill with a simple majority. Taxes would still require two thirds.
With the state regularly deadlocked thanks to the current minority-veto provision, this is a no-brainer. I will vote YES on 25, without hesitation.
Still, I wonder if the argument could be made that it would be worse to permit spending to pass by a majority, but tax increases only by 2/3, than to require the same size majority for both. Prop. 25 is a half measure, at best. But it is important to enhance the accountability of the legislative majority and reduce the minority veto power (independent of partisan control). This is long overdue.
Yet again, the voters of California are being asked to decide on the process of redistricting. This time, we are being asked not one, but two questions.
Proposition 20 would extend the current redistricting commission to include US House seats. It currently applies only to state legislative elections and the Board of Equalization (which administers the tax code). Proposition 27 would abolish the commission entirely, and return all redistricting back to the regular political process–the legislature and governor.
The current commission was enacted by voter initiative only in 2008. So, exactly one general election later, we are being asked to either extend its mandate or get rid of it.
In 2008, I expressed opposition to the measure that created the current commission. The reason is certainly not that I am not in favor of legislators getting to draw their own district boundaries. It is an inherent conflict of interest. At the time I quoted one of my favorite political reformers of all time, Henry Droop, who wrote the following lament in 1869:
from Maine westward to the Pacific Ocean, in the last ten years, in no state whatever had there been an honest and fair district apportionment bill passed for the election of members of Congress [except] where two branches of a legislature were divided in political opinion, and one checked the other.
Despite my belief that independent commissions, rather than partisan elected officials, should handle redistricting, I was against this measure because of its being effectively a bipartisan commission, rather than a really independent one, and having an unduly complex selection process. I will not belabor the arguments here; any reader who wants to see my logic at the time can read the original. There was a lively debate in the comment thread at the time.
But now I get a chance to reconsider. And I think I will vote NO on 27, that is to keep the new status quo of the redistricting commission. I still do not like the model created by this commission, but I would rather improve it than abolish it. If we put legislators back in the line-drawing business, we might never get it back. If nothing else, voter fatigue over more and more redistricting measures may set in (if it has not already!).
Now, what about extending it to cover US House districts? I believe I will vote NO on 20 as well. Again, I most certainly oppose letting legislators draw district lines. However, I have never been a fan of unilateral disarmament. The federal dimension matters here, and this measure takes California’s legislature (controlled by Democrats) out of the process of determining the boundaries of 53 House districts (12% of the total number of House seats!), with no reciprocal move by Republican-controlled states to “disarm” their legislatures from controlling a like number of districts. As I also said in the earlier post,
Thus redistricting reform in the House presumably should be done via constitutional amendment or an interstate compact (on the model of the National Popular Vote for the presidency).
I can’t say that I feel good about either of these votes. And I welcome arguments in the comments. Who knows, maybe some readers will persuade me to vote otherwise. But for now, I am voting to retain a bad existing commission (NO on 27), but not to extend its mandate to include House seats (NO on 20).
Shortly after the 2008 election, I reviewed just how uncompetitive California’s districts were. The bigger issue here is that, redistricting commission or not, it simply will not be easy to create more competitive districts. The problem of lack of competition is deeper than the process by which we draw districts for our electoral system of first-past-the-post.
A dimension of comparison that scholars of political parties have not paid enough attention to–and that means me, too–is the presence and impact of direct election of big-city mayors in countries that are parliamentary at higher levels of government (national, state/provincial, etc.).
The election results show a victory by Rob Ford, with 47% in a multi-candidate field.
Like many a presidential candidate, he won by emphasizing himself, personally, as an agent of change. And even though he has served on the city council, he is an “outsider” in the sense of not having allies, as the Globe and Mail commented the day after the election:
Before he ran for mayor, Mr. Ford was an isolated city councillor who often failed to understand the issues he was ranting about at city council. As a candidate, he ran on a series of simplistic slogans that say nothing about the real problems of a grown-up city.
Certainly, not the sort of leader who could become “PM” of the city, were the city to have a parliamentary system like the province of Ontario or Canada at the federal level.
The election is by first-past-the-post, and it had many of the classic dynamics of FPTP in a multi-candidate field. The second-place candidate, George Smitherman, had 35.6%, and Joe Pantalone was third with 11.7%. The fourth candidate, Rocco Rossi, dropped out of the campaign, saying:
Despite my efforts to focus this race around issues and ideas that I feel matter, it has become clear that the majority of Torontonians have parked their support with one of two candidates: Mr. Smitherman or Mr. Ford.
All federal MPs from Toronto are currently Liberal or NDP. Yet the voters of the city have taken advantage of the direct election to choose a right-wing mayor.
With direct election, the process of selecting the mayor of Toronto could hardly be more different than the selection of the premier of the province or the PM of Canada. The federal parties may be “taking notes” on the Ford campaign, but the lessons will go only so far, given that the differences in executive type that structure their campaigns.
Some other parliamentary democracies also have directly elected mayors of large cities, including Japan and the U.K. There may well be a literature about this “presidentialism embedded in parliamentarism” that I have missed.
Iceland will have a Constitutional Assembly “for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution of the Republic.” It will be elected by single transferable vote (STV), in a single national district with a magnitude of 25. The election will be 27 November.
The STV system will include a gender-representation provision:
There is a 40% sex-balance rule that is to be applied after the STV-PR election for the 25 places has been completed. If candidates of either sex do not have at least 10 of the 25 seats (“two-fifths”), additional seats will be allocated to the under-represented sex to bring representation of that sex up to “two-fifths”, subject to a limit of six additional seats. These additional seats would be allocated to the required number of the last eliminated candidates of the under-represented sex.
See more at the Irish Political Reform blog. And thanks to Tom Round for pointing this out in another thread.
Iceland’s M=25 is likely a record for size of an STV constituency.
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.
(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.
It was nice to see both League Championship Series go to six games. We had not had that happen since 2004, when both went seven (for the second year in a row; we were spoiled back then). 2003 was the last time both leagues’ championship series and the World Series went at least six. So here’s hoping for at least six games in the World Series this year!
I think we all knew the Yankees pitching was suspect, but I sure did not see a 2:1 ALCS run ratio coming. The Rangers outscored the Yankees, 38-19. Had the Rangers’ bullpen found a way not to squander a 4-run 8th-inning lead in Game 1, it would have been a sweep. As it was, the Yankees managed to win two and make it a long series. But it was not a close one.
There is a pattern with the Rangers: despite their division series against Tampa Bay going the 5-game distance (and with the road team winning every game!), that series also was not close in runs: 21-13. So that’s 59 runs scored in eleven games, against 32 allowed.
Speaking of run differentials, the NLCS was about as close as they get. The Phillies actually led the run-scoring, 20-19. Close games are a pattern with this Giants team. They only outscored the Braves in the 4-game Division Series, 11-9. That’s thirty runs scored in ten postseason games! And 29 allowed.
One particularly enjoyable thing about postseason baseball is the appearance of starting pitchers in relief. Roy Oswalt did not do so well in his appearance. Tim Lincecum did not fare so well in Game 6, either, despite the better result for his team. Madison Bumgarner, however, was sharp.
I was hoping the NLCS would go to a seventh game, because we might have gotten to see Roy Halladay in relief.
The Rangers’ offense might have some trouble with that big sea-level ballpark in San Francisco. The NL has the World Series home-field advantage this year, so that factor could be a difference-maker. On the other hand, the Rangers pitching is going to like it there. And, averaging not even three runs allowed against good lineups in the postseason, the Rangers’ pitching is good.
The Rangers have never been in a World Series, and the Giants have not won one since 1954 in New York.
Did I mention I hope the series goes seven, or at least six?
Of all the photos I took while in Jerusalem, this has to be one of my favorite views of the city.
Taken from the grounds of St. Peter in Gallicantu, it shows the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque, a portion of the Old City walls, and the Mount of Olives, including the gold-domed Russian Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Holy city, indeed!
At the upper left, the tower at Mount Scopus (close to where we were staying during our visit) stands.
With a wider panorama from nearby, one also can take in the Dome of the Rock and the Russian Church of the Ascension (which is at the very top of the Mount of Olives).
The biggest step yet for the new coalition government in the UK (and oh, how those words still seem so odd to say!) is the package of spending cuts unveiled before parliament today.
Of particular interest is how Deputy PM Nick Clegg is explaining the process to his own party. From the party website:
The spending review is a thoroughly Coalition product. Liberal Democrat ministers have been involved every step of the way. Our values and priorities are written through the review, like the message in a stick of rock. We have had to make some very difficult choices. But the review is one that promotes fairness, underpins growth, reduces carbon emissions and localises power.
Liberal Democrat ministers have fought to ensure that the burden of the challenge ahead is shared fairly. On child benefit, capital gains and tax evasion and avoidance – this government is making the well off pay their share. And for those services that matter most to the vulnerable in our society, such as health and social care and early years education, spending is being protected.
The not-so-subtext is, were it not for us in coalition, those other folks would have made cuts that were a lot less fair.
The Israeli government is close to passing a bill that is a watered down version of one of the demands made by coalition member Yisrael Beiteinu (led by Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister in the government): to establish an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. The oath would apply only to non-Jews seeking citizenship in Israel.
I think the oath is wrong-headed. However, I am also persuaded that there will never be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue if there is no formal recognition by the proto-state of the Palestinian Arabs that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It is, as Ari Shavit put it in Haaretz, the core of the conflict, and thus the conflict can be resolved only by this formal recognition. But requiring individual would-be citizens to swear loyalty does not put us any closer to solving the conflict. It is exclusionary, and contrary to civil rights of the non-Jewish citizens of the state of Israel.
If one wants to know why recognition–not by prospective citizens, but by the prospective neighboring state–of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a core issue, one need only look at the following statement about the proposed loyalty oath from the Palestinian Ministry of Information. The oath would be, the statement said:
An open invitation to expel the Palestinians, upon whose bodies, lands, and dreams the occupation state was built in the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba.*
It is generally assumed in the West that when Palestinian spokespersons refer to the “occupation” they mean the territories within the former British Mandate of Palestine that were seized by Israeli forces from Arab armies in the 1967 war: The West Bank and Gaza.
However, the statement could not be more clear: All of Israel is the “occupation state.” By further implication, all of what was Palestine under the British Mandate up to 1948 is still Palestine. Ipso facto, there can be no Jewish state.
The conflict will not be resolved, and the “peace talks” (if they are resumed again) will go nowhere, as long as this is the sort of interpretation put out by the Palestinian Ministry of Information.
* Transcription of the English voice-over on Mosaic TV one day during the past week. I am not sure of the original Arabic source of the broadcast, but I think it was Al Jazeera.
Not surprisingly, Green support is heavily urban. However, I might not have expected it to fall off as precipitously as it does in most states. There are a couple of cases where it ticks back up somewhat in the suburbs, such as Western Australia and New South Wales. Perhaps those who know Australia can explain.
One comment to Simon’s post says, “It really contrasts how different the inner city left is to the suburban left. I think it is almost impossible for a single party to appeal to both.”
I think it is becoming almost impossible for one party to represent these two constituencies in the USA as well (though here the potential Green base would not be exactly “inner-city,” due to differences in urban demography). Nonetheless, we Americans are still asked to pretend that one party can represent these different “lefts.”
On a related note, I’m still undecided on whether to vote Green or Brown with my non-transferable vote in just over two weeks’ time. And I’m really far from any urban core, out here where folks apparently really like their tea.
More than three months since the election, the Netherlands has an accord on a minority coalition government. Three recent items from Radio Netherlands online offer the highlights.
Coalition talks in the Netherlands appear to have resulted in right-wing government supported by the far right. Negotiators reached agreement on Tuesday evening [27 Sept.] on the details of a coalition agreement between the free-market liberal VVD and Christian Democrats (CDA). A second agreement on parliamentary support by the Freedom Party has also been finalised. Tuesday was 111th day of the formation. Earlier in the evening, VVD leader Mark Rutte said the new cabinet will be named Rutte-Verhagen, acknowledging CDA leader Maxime Verhagen’s role in the coalition. [...]
The Qur’an will not be banned, headscarves will not be taxed, and Muslims will not be deported en masse. Geert Wilders did not get everything he wanted in the coalition agreement between the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats, propped up by his own Freedom Party (PVV).
So what did Mr Wilders get in return for supporting this minority cabinet? These are the main PVV points:
There will be a complete ban on burqas, and police and justice employees will not be allowed to wear headscarves;
Conditional passports for new immigrants – to be withdrawn if they commit crimes in the first five years;
The pension age will only be raised to 66 not 67;
An extra 2,500 police officers;
Animal police will be introduced. 500 officers will look after the welfare of animals in the Netherlands;
The duration of unemployment benefit payments will not be reduced;
Maximum speed on the motorway will be increased to 130 kilometres per hour;
The current smoking ban will be lifted for small cafés
[...] Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party will not be part of the new cabinet, and so will not provide any ministers. The twelve ministers (down from the current 16) will be split evenly between the VVD and the CDA, and VVD leader Mark Rutte says the cabinet should be called Rutte-Verhagen I. The Freedom Party, for its part, will support the government in parliament.
This is a unique construction, with no precedent in Dutch politics. To achieve a stable minority government, the three parties have signed two different governing accords. One encompasses what all three parties have agreed to, and the other details what the VVD and CDA have agreed. Geert Wilders will not sign the second accord. However, he has agreed not to bring the government down over policies laid out in the agreement between the VVD and CDA.
Then comes a reminder of why it is not accurate to call this coalition a “right-wing government supported by the far right.” (Reiterating and detailing some points raised above.)
Wilders has managed to minimise cuts in a number of areas. The VVD and CDA have agreed that the retirement age will only be raised to 66 instead of 67. Wilders wanted it to stay at 65. There will be investment in care for the elderly and unemployment benefits will not be further limited.
This is actually not unusual. Many parties that tend to be called in the media and by politicians from other parties “far right” are not right-wing at all on the dimension that “left-right” normally refers to, which is economic policy. Parties like the Freedom Party are notoriously hard to label, but “nationalist” is probably more appropriate. While taking a hard-line view on immigration and even on public manifestations of minority identity (in particular, in today’s Europe, by Muslims), parties of this sort often take left-of-center positions on areas like social welfare. Of course, this combination is nothing new: there is a reason the term “national socialism” was invented, after all. (No, I am not saying Wilders is a Nazi, but only that this combination of issue positions is neither rare, nor meaningfully “right wing.”)
The Freedom Party has also secured some policy commitments on animal rights, which is not usually thought of as a right-wing cause.
The Christian Democratic Party MPs unanimously approved the agreement after a special party congress held on Saturday, 2 October.
The parliamentary party approved the deal after just two hours of discussion, in sharp contrast to a similar meeting last week when they failed to reach a decision after 15 hours of talks.
Acting party chairman Henk Bleker said the special CDA congress on Saturday had made the difference. 68 percent of the party members voted in favour of the coalition agreement and 32 percent against.
Over 3,500 candidates had applied for party ticket for the 403 seats after depositing a particular fee. They were also asked to take life membership of the party magazine “Samajwadi Bulletin”, the sources said.
While I was in Estonia this past summer, I heard about an electoral reform in Finland, possibly involving the adoption of a national compensation tier. Perhaps this was in response to some of the unequal treatment of parties in the seat allocation in the “photo Finnish” election of 2007, as I wrote about at the time.
I do not have details of the proposed reform, or certainty that it has even been enacted. Perhaps a reader knows.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4