Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cambridge Breaks Out the Rulers in 2013 Election

You really haven't voted until you have voted in a Cambridge municipal election. Our proportional voting system lets you rank every single candidate, which means in this year's election you could vote for all 25 city council candidates and all 9 school committee candidates. That requires two dense ballots:

You will need an official voter pen:

A ruler, conveniently provided in each voting booth, comes in handy if you exercise your right to vote more than once. You see, you can vote only once per column and once per row, so you may need that ruler to ensure you haven't spoiled your ballot. Two people did need new ballots while I was voting at my polling station, and only six voters were there, a failure rate of 33%.

I vote at the Cambridge National Guard Armory, a sign at which informs "guests" that the building, despite principally containing a basketball court, is a military installation. I swear I did not move while I took this picture:

The system has two interesting quirks when it comes to incumbents. It's very hard to target a particular incumbent for defeat, as you'd have to lock up over 83% to 91% of the electorate to prevent the incumbent being reelected. At the same time, all the candidates run against all the other candidates, so interesting newcomers can end up pushing less interesting incumbents out of office.

This year, 2 incumbents on the city council were defeated and 2 seats were open, so 4 newcomers were elected to the 9 member council. Leland Cheung, the candidate who got the most votes and should be the next mayor, is also a relative newcomer.

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