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Report on the May 2008 Meeting

by Bill McGaughey

Metro Property Rights Action Committee met on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at the Martin Luther King neighborhood center in south Minneapolis. The group’s legendary founder, Charlie Disney, who spends much of the year in Arizona, was in attendance.

The first segment had to do with strategies for fighting abusive city governments. Bill McGaughey offered some thoughts about what MPRAC is about. See the accompanying article about “patriotism”.
The second segment had to do with instant runoff voting. Minneapolis voters overwhelmingly approved this concept in a recent election, but a group called Minnesota Voters Alliance is opposing it in the courts. A representative of this organization, Andy Sellick, spoke against instant runoff voting at MPRAC’s May meeting. I spoke in favor of it.

Instant runoff voting is a system in which voters rank their preferences for the various candidates: Candidate X is their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. First the first-choice votes are counted. If there are more than two candidates, the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes is dropped from the list. Then the voters who voted for that candidate as their first choice have their second-choice votes assigned to the other candidates. This process of dropping candidates and reassigning their votes continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes. He or she is the winner of the election.

Opponents of instant runoff voting, including Wheelock Whitney and Stanley Hubbard, argue that the measure is unconstitutional. It votes the one man/ one vote concept. A 1915 court case. Brown v. Smallwood, said that this procedure is illegal. Opponents vow to fight this all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
Sellick’s reasons for opposing instant runoff voting were: (1) It violates the one man/ one vote principle. (2) It doesn’t count all the votes equally. (3) It violates the principle of “nonmonotinicity” - I don’t know what that word means.

In response, I argued that, contrary to opponents’ claims, instant runoff voting would help minor party candidates. I belong to the Independence Party of Minnesota, the state’s third largest political party. Before attending the meeting, I consulted with the IP’s 5th District chair, Peter Tharaldson. It was his view, which I share, that instant runoff voting would help third parties overcome the “wasted vote” syndrome where people like Ralph Nader, for instance, are hammered for throwing the 2000 election to the Republicans. Tharaldson thought Tim Penny might have been elected governor in 2002 if such a system were in place. Instant runoff voting empowers voters to express their true thoughts and feelings in casting a vote and not have to vote for strategic purposes.

Sellick and I argued whether or not instant runoff voting let some people vote twice while others voted only once. Sellick thought that was the case. I did not.

Assume that candidate A gets 8 first-choice votes in the first round, candidate B gets 7 votes, and candidate C gets 6 votes. Then, in the second round, candidate C is dropped. Of his second-choice votes, 4 go to candidate B and 2 go to candidate A. This gives candidate B 11 votes as opposed to 9 votes for candidate A. Candidate B wins the election even though he finished second in the initial round of voting.

Andy Sellick thought that was unfair. And those who voted for candidate C also got to vote twice, he argued. I argued that the voters for candidates A and B also, in effect, had two votes because their first-choice votes from the first round automatically carried over into first-choice votes in the second round. No one’s votes were shorted.
The guest speaker for the third segment was Bill Benton, host of a cable-television show called “The Real America” which is broadcast on MTN, channel 17, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. It is also broadcast on cable channels in other cities such as San Francisco.

Benton splits his time between Minneapolis and San Francisco. After listening to gripes from Twin Cities landlords, he pointed out that San Francisco landlords actually have it much worse. They are hit with rent controls and with an ordinance that forbids them to evict tenants except for specified reasons. As a result, many affluent tenants are living in rent-controlled apartments and are paying only a fraction of market rate. The San Francisco media, like ours, refuse to cover protest activities organized by the property owners.

Benton is on a mission to tell the story of the forgotten America, which the commercial media refuses to cover. Housing is one of his topics of interest. He therefore invited MPRAC and others to send video clips to him for possible broadcast on his program, The Real America. He can be reached at TRA1776@gmail.com. Although his enterprise does not have its own web site, it has a page on YouTube: YouTube/TRA1776.

The Real America appears to be on a mission similar to MPRAC’s except that it has a national scope. Benton recognizes that media failure to cover real events is a reason that democracy is declining in America. Unlike most others, he is actually doing something about this problem.

 

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