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Give Green Party candidate Hawkins a chance to bloom

by Murugan Pandian
Daily Orange Editorial

n 2005, the city of Syracuse experienced one of the most exciting election races in its recent history – the mayoral race. The usual Coke and Pepsi candidates from the two-party system were in the race, but the candidate that truly made the race entertaining was the legendary Green Party co-founder, Howie Hawkins.

Though Democratic Mayor Matt Driscoll won the election and Hawkins garnered only 4.7 percent of the vote, the Green Party candidate remained steadfast in his aim to become an elected official for the region.

Hawkins again plans to provide a third option in Syracuse politics Tuesday when he runs for one of the city’s two councilor-at-large positions. Many of his stances for the race mirror those he presented in the 2005 mayoral race.

His campaign included a series of strategic initiatives that were geared toward empowering the lives of the city’s citizens.

One of his most popular items from his campaign platform was the push for public power. It would create affordable, green energy from city-owned, clean, renewable energy sources and circumvent the high costs charged by National Grid.

Hawkins felt that Syracuse should have a citywide minimum wage that was a living wage. He also advocated for a fair tax structure because “the poorest 20 percent pay 14 percent of their income in sales and property taxes while the wealthiest 20 percent pay only seven percent.”

As a means to improve the democratic election process, he supported instant runoff voting and proportional representation.

In addition, his platform called for redirecting the city’s wasteful spending of $6-8 million on enforcing drug laws. He advocated putting that money toward better use such as fully funding the public schools and providing more after-school services for the children.

Hawkins’ affiliation with an untraditional party often hurts his chances as a candidate. Nevertheless, his ideas remain as reasonable as any main party candidate.

“Because he has run as a minor-party candidate in so many races and has never won, some might wonder whether he is a ‘legitimate candidate,'” an Oct. 30 editorial in The Post-Standard read. “In fact, Hawkins is one of the more credible people running for local office this year.”

Syracuse is still in need of innovative leadership. The city is ranked third overall in highest poverty level for the nation’s top 100 cities. Governor Eliot Spitzer has mentioned before that parts of this area are akin to the poverty found in Appalachia.

The Coke and Pepsi candidates that challenged Hawkins in the last mayoral race felt that construction of a gargantuan mall would be the savior for the city.

In contrast, Hawkins’ common sense campaign platform that contains solutions to the city’s everyday problems is desperately needed. He has received the endorsement of The Post-Standard, AFSCME Local 400 and the Central New York Chapter of the Socialist Party USA.

In the past few years, students in New Paltz, N.Y., and Cobleskill, N.Y., have dramatically improved their towns by voting for innovative Green Party candidates.

It is time now for the student community in Syracuse to improve the city by casting a vote for Hawkins and setting the city in the right direction to rejuvenate itself.

Murugan Pandian is a graduate student in the School of Information Studies and a member of the Green Party.


One Response

  1. While it’s clear that our traditional “vote for one” (plurality) voting system is inexcusable, Instant Runoff Voting is not much better – and there are many better simpler solutions. There is also a great deal of public misunderstanding and misinformation surrounding IRV, largely the result of the IRV propaganda organization, FairVote.

    One common myth is that IRV elects “majority winners”. But IRV can lead to the election of candidate X, even when candidate Y is preferred to X by a huge majority. Consider this hypothetical IRV election.

    #voters – their vote
    10 G > C > P > M
    3 C > G > P > M
    5 C > P > M > G
    6 M > P > C > G
    4 P > M > C > G

    C is the clear Condorcet (condor-SAY) winner, meaning he is preferred by a landslide majority over all his individual rivals. He is preferred over G, P, and M all by an 18-10 margin.

    But… M wins, even though he also has fewer first-place votes (6 voters) than C with 8.


    1. P is preferred to M by 22 of the 28 voters, yet he’s the first candidate eliminated.
    2. G also has more first-place votes (10) than M’s 6.
    3. So M either loses pairwise to, or has fewer first-place votes than (or both) every rival, but still IRV elects M.

    Notice that the first group of voters could have caused C to win if they had only “lied”, and put him first in their list. That would mean they’d get their second favorite instead of their fourth favorite. Statistical analysis reveals that this strategy is advised for all candidates who don’t appear to have at least a 20% chance of winning. That means that, contrary to FairVote propaganda, IRV does not let you “vote your hopes, not your fears”. And this means that IRV effectively degrades toward plain old plurality (vote-for-one) voting. This is explained in more detail here, by math experts:

    Election integrity experts and activists, like computer science Ph.D. Rebecca Mercuri disapprove of IRV because it is conducive to the adoption of fraud-susceptible electronic voting machines. IRV is also more susceptible to fraud because it is not countable in precincts. That is, candidate A could win every individual precinct, but bizarrely lose when the ballots are all summed together – which enforces centralized tabulation, which is more susceptible to central fraud conspiracy. And IRV typically causes spoiled ballots to go up by a factor of about 7.

    A much simpler and far better system is Approval Voting. It’s just like the current system, except that there is no limit on the number of candidates one may vote for. While it may seem initially less intuitive than ranking choices, deep scrutiny shows that Approval Voting produces a far more representative outcome, and is less harmed by problems like strategic voting. This is shown through an objective economic measure called Bayesian regret, which shows how well a particular voting method tends to satisfy the preferences of the voters. The improvement gotten by Approval Voting relative to IRV is especially large if the voters are strategic, as was described above (although FairVote promoters will often falsely claim that the best strategy with Approval Voting is to “bullet vote”). See:

    If we don’t mind a somewhat more cluttered ballot, we can upgrade to Range Voting, which uses a ratings scale, like Olympics scoring. It is arguably more intuitive, and produces phenomenal Bayesian regret results, meaning more satisfied voters, and more competitive nominees if used for a party’s nomination process (i.e. a big strategic advantage).

    For a look at how the major parties could become dramatically more competitive by merely adopting Range Voting or Approval Voting, see:

    Election reformers must be diligent and do their research. Don’t be misled by FairVote’s clever marketing. Look at what Ivy League mathematicians and political science experts such as Steve Brams, who write entire books on this stuff, say. FairVote has an agenda, and it’s definitely not in the pubic’s best interest.

    Clay Shentrup
    San Francisco, CA

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