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April 2011

Alternative Voting Systems—Issues and Questions

By Paula Manley

We hope you can join us on April 14th

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Last month we presented an overview of the LWVMI’s Alternative
Voting Systems study. On April 14 we will have our LWVKA consensus meeting at Paula Manley’s home (5652 Brenda Lane East, Parchment) at 7pm to consider the proposals. If you
cannot attend the meeting, please complete the consensus questions found on page four of the PDF version of this Bulletin and send the form to Paula Manley by April 10.

As you prepare for consensus, read the study on the LWVMI website and consider the following issues:

  1. Majority Rule: Is the fact that someone may be elected with
    less than 50 percent of the vote important enough to change
    to a different election system? If it happens too frequently, will
    it reduce the legitimacy of Michigan’s elected officials? How
    important are voting paradoxes that are found in all of the
    systems being discussed?
  2. “Sincere Voting” vs. Strategic Voting: How important is it for
    an election system to encourage citizens to vote for their true
    favorite rather than for someone who has a better chance of
    winning? Is an “insincere” strategic vote “gaming the system”
    or making a compromise? Might an “insincere” or strategic
    vote for a candidate reduce the ability of the winner to interpret the will of the people?
  3. “Wasted” votes: Does it matter that votes for a third party candidate under the plurality system might be considered
    “wasted” because it cannot lead to the election of the voter’s
    preferred candidate?
  4. Intensity vs. Breadth of Support: Should a voting system balance intensity of support with breadth of support? What kind of impact does the type of support have on the winner’s ability to govern?
  5. Preferences: Are there benefits to allowing voters to express
    their preferences by approving or ranking multiple candidates?
  6. Legality of Alternative Systems: Are the benefits of alternative methods sufficient to warrant a change in Michigan statutes?
  7. Political Parties: Would alternative voting systems that encourage third parties upset the traditional two-party
    system? In the plurality system, how important is it that third party candidates can take votes from one major party candidate, perhaps enabling the candidate from the other major party to win?
  8. Voter Education: Is the fact that some voting systems require complex tabulation sufficient reason to reject them?
    How important is it that the voters understand how votes are tabulated? Would the additional cost of a new system be too much of a burden on Michigan election districts in terms of
    educating voters and election officials?
  9. Change: Who benefits from changing to an alternative system? Who is disadvantaged? Is it possible to reduce the
    impact of the unintended consequences that almost always follow any institutional change?

*Issues taken from the LWVMI study which may be found at www.LWVMI.org. See page four of the PDF file of the April Bulletin for consensus questions

highlights

Creating New Experiences Through Dialogue

By Kay Perry

Take this opportunity to practice a useful life skill.

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“To argue with someone else's experience is a waste of time. To add someone's experience to your experience— to create a new experience—is possibly valuable.”
(MG Taylor)

LWV members are often curious learners, interested in many issues and ideas. When they gather together, the occasion is likely to include lively conversation on a variety of topics. That was certainly the case when a group of more than thirty Leaguers came together last spring to share ideas about civic engagement. We called
that event a “gathering” and used an approach known as conversation café to promote the exchange of ideas with many people in short rounds of small group discussion.

Comments about that event were very positive, as participants made new (and renewed old) acquaintanceships and considered how they could improve their own civic engagement.

That event also highlighted the merit of engaging with those with whom we disagree, rather than avoiding those conversations, as we often do. The experience of learning from each other whetted the appetite for what’s possible if we widen the circle of engagement.

In an effort to offer a skill-building opportunity for League members, all are invited to join together to learn about and use dialogue—a way of communicating that promotes shared exploration and understanding. We’ll practice with a topic that’s soon to be a national League study: privatization—the policy agenda to transfer government functions, services and assets to the private sector.

When: Saturday, April 16, 2011; 8:45 a.m. to
12:00 noon; coffee available at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Borgess Navigation Center, behind the Medical Specialties Building on the Gull Road campus; turn on Shaffer Road and follow the signs; parking is next to the building. 226-5170.

RSVP: president@lwvka.org or 544-0303

Take this opportunity to practice a useful life skill—one that enables the kind of civil discourse the League strives to model.

highlights

A Home, the LHAF and the HOMES Coalition

By Kay Perry

The Local Housing Trust Fund has ssisted
many Kalamazoo County residents.

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How important is it to you to have a place to call home? Can you imagine building a new and prosperous life from a sleeping bag under a bridge? Can you imagine being a child who cannot concentrate on her schoolwork because her mind is filled with thoughts of not having a place to sleep that night? Can you imagine losing your job and being unable to pay for your family’s
housing? Do you have friends, acquaintances, relatives or neighbors who have experienced being without a place to call home?

We can be proud of Kalamazoo County for creating, in 2006, the Local Housing Trust Fund (LHAF), a very successful program that
has provided vouchers to many without a home, assistance to many who were in danger of losing what they called home and (with leveraged money) some affordable housing for low-wage earners and some on fixed incomes.

The LHAF, a pilot program, has assisted many Kalamazoo County residents who were homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. The LHAF began with approximately $1 million in donations from the County, the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage and a few generous private donors. About $1.5 million in additional funds were leveraged. The money helped 146 households (185 adults and 223 children) avoid homelessness with an 89% success rate. In the voucher program, 117 vouchers were issued. A 20% success rate was expected but a 40% success rate was achieved. One of the
properties purchased through the leveraged monies is home to 10 previously chronicallyhomeless individuals and of those 10, 7 have
stabilized in that housing. The money has now run out.

Because of the great successes of the LHAF, a number of organizations in the County (including the LWVKA) feel that the LHAF should survive and grow. In the fall of 2010, they formed the HOMES Coalition for the sole purpose of securing a permanent funding source for the LHAF. HOMES is an acronym for Housing Opportunity Makes Economic Sense. Housing people costs half of what it costs to shelter them and saves in health care costs, public safety costs and the long-term costs of under-educated children. Anyone willing to take an active role in the HOMES Coalition should contact Ann Perry at 381-4277.