The 'STAR' of the show: A better way of voting
Recently, the county rejected a proposal to extend the signature-gathering deadline past June 30 to get STAR voting on the ballot. This was a huge disappointment to us, as our canvassing activities were largely put on hold due to COVID-19.
However, this setback has not dampened our commitment to a better voting system. Let’s start with the basics.
STAR stands for Score Then Automatic Runoff. This system would allow each voter to score each candidate on a scale of zero to five. Zero represents the lowest amount of support and five the highest. Then, all the scores are tallied up, and the two candidates with the highest total scores advance straight to runoffs. It is not to be confused with ranked choice voting. STAR has a lot of benefits that do not exist in other voting methods.
First, it would allow voters to give their full range of support for each candidate, instead of throwing their entire vote behind one candidate. Scorers can score as many, or as few, candidates as they like. They can even give the same score to more than one candidate. So, if there’s a race in which there are two or more highly qualified candidates one can give them both a score of five. This increases the chances that at least one of the voter’s favored candidates will win. Conversely, if there are no desirable choices, scorers can avoid voting for the “lesser of evils” and give them each a zero. Contrast this with RCV, where voters cannot repeat scores without their ballot being disqualified.
This freedom in scoring allows voters to be more honest with their vote. Instead of picking the candidate that they feel has the best chance of winning, but may not be their favorite, voters can simply score each candidate based on how much they like them. This prevents strategic voting that is common in many widely used voting systems.
Another problem STAR avoids is the “spoiler effect.” This happens when two or more candidates run in the same party. An example of this was when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ran as Democrats in the 2016 Democratic primaries. Each vote for one of these candidates weakened their chances of winning, forcing Sanders to drop out of the race. However, with STAR, more than one candidate can run in the same party without their chances of winning being diminished. Each candidate’s success depends on their final tally of scores.
On a related note, STAR could eliminate the primaries, ending the two-party gridlock that disenfrachises many voters. This means that each voter can score all candidates, regardless of party affiliation of either the voter or candidate. Thus, candidates from third parties can compete on a more level playing field and have a better chance of winning. STAR would make voters feel like they have a true choice, not like they are just throwing away their votes.
I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about STAR Voting or who wants to become active with us to visit starvoting.us. Oregon still has the chance to become a leader in the nation. Help us implement STAR locally!
Erica Lyon is affiliated with STAR and lives in Eugene.
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