Portland voters have the opportunity to reform our dysfunctional form of government. The Portland Charter Commission has crafted a proposal that is quite good. A city manager would take over bureaus. Four districts would be created, providing geographic representation but avoiding domination by parochial concerns. Criticism has been focused on the voting method, which some have called new and experimental. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The technical name of the voting method is single transferable vote, and it entails electing multiple members from a single district based on ranked choice voting. The system has been in continuous use for over 100 years in Australia, Malta and Ireland. It is used for local elections as well as national elections. Scotland and New Zealand also use the method.
The voting method is good for two reasons: First, it encourages moderation. The candidates most likely to be elected are those who can attract second and third choice votes from voters across the political spectrum.
Second, it allows for proportional representation. Almost everyone agrees our national two-party system is bad. But there’s a simple reason we have it: Single-member districts don’t allow for proportional representation. If the Green Party gets 20% of the vote in Ireland, they control about 20% of the seats. If the Green Party gets 20% of the vote in the U.S., they control zero seats. Proportional representation is good.
Vote yes on the charter reform proposal!
Jonathan Knudtsen, Portland