Opponents' attacks reveal more about themselves

Eugene voters should note that Measure 20-349 Opposition Committee members are not eligible Eugene voters; and while at face value their opposition statements appear to advocate for sticking with the status quo, that's not actually their agenda.

The fact is, Colin Cole is an out-of-state lobbyist for a multi-million dollar conglomerate notorious for coordinated mud-slinging campaigns and the intentional spread of misinformation on voting reform. 

Both he and Brian Smith are directly funded by Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) lobby organizations that see STAR as competition, as are almost all of the other organizations and individuals who submitted coordinated opposition statements for the Voters Pamphlet.

Publicly, the Ranked Choice Voting leadership is fairly supportive of STAR Voting. FairVote, (Colin Cole's longtime employer and the leader of the RCV lobby,) states "we do not oppose efforts to win enactment of other “alternative” methods." and "[STAR Voting] is superior to both vote-for-one plurality and to two-round runoff elections."

Given the opposition statements in the Voters Pamphlet this is Orwellian double-speak a la 1984 at its finest. No wonder FairVote is known as the "Ministry of FairVote" in Election Science circles. 

This is politics as usual and it's exactly what STAR Voting sets out to address. Let's do better!

Read Eugene Voters Pamphlet here


Correcting misinformation:

  • STAR Voting always elects the majority preferred winner between the two finalists, just like the current top-two runoff system. No voting method can always guarantee a true majority winner because one might not exist, for example if there are three polarized factions who each oppose each other. 
  • The STAR runoff is one person, one vote. Every voter gets exactly one vote for the finalist they prefer.
  • Case studies and adoptions have all been successful. STAR prevented spoilers, even in highly-competitive races like the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO) 2020 Primary. This election was a stress test and STAR Voting passed with flying colors, as evidenced by their page supporting STAR Voting and their endorsement in the Eugene Voters Pamphlet. Despite this, false claims wildly misquoting simple data points have been leveled repeatedly. FairVote claimed that a majority of voters in the election bullet voted (scored only one candidate). This is false. 62% scored multiple candidates. Some voters honestly only like one candidate, which is fine, but for voters who did have multiple candidates on their side the vast majority showed support for more than one. At the Eugene City Club Q and A, Brian Smith of the Opposition Committee stated that Donald Trump won the Independent Party's STAR Voting presidential preference poll. This is also false. Vote-splitting between the Sanders/Biden majority was prevented and Biden won that race. 
  • STAR is user-friendly. It's a 5 star rating. It's tallied with addition. It's not rocket science. 
  • Voters who give higher scores do not have more voting power than those who give lower scores in STAR Voting. In STAR, withholding stars is equally powerful to giving them. How do we know? Because a ballot with one 5 star and the rest zeros perfectly balances out a ballot with one zero star rating and the rest five stars. If the election was tied before these two votes were cast, it would still be tied after. 
  • Regardless what scores you gave, in the automatic runoff your ballot counts as one full vote for the finalist you prefer. 
  • The only "strategy" voters should keep in mind is to show a preference between candidates if they do indeed have a preference. Dishonest voting is counterproductive in STAR Voting, as has been proven in the peer-reviewed literature.  
  • No studies or "experts" have found issues with STAR. It's peer-reviewed and has topped the charts in every paper that's evaluated it. 
  • Groups that have used STAR Voting have not repealed it, unlike RCV.
  • STAR Voting Action's board of directors is led by people of color and the team is extremely diverse. STAR empowers marginalized voters and minority factions by combatting the electability bias and making it safe to vote your conscience.
  • The League of Women Voters does not oppose STAR Voting.


Why is Eugene proposing STAR Voting and not Ranked Choice?

The decision to move forward with STAR Voting, not RCV, was not made lightly. In the 150 years since Ranked Choice was invented it's chalked up a hefty track record and enjoys great name recognition in many circles. We support the goals underpinning Ranked Choice Voting and respect the work of the vast majority of the activists who are invested in it.

Most STAR Voting advocates started out as Ranked Choice fans, but our positions evolved after doing a deeper dive. On this issue, the science is very clear; RCV has serious issues with high rates of voter error, delayed results, mistallied elections, spoilers, and non-majority winners. Its over-complicated algorithm requires centralized tabulation, which introduces election security risks and it violates Oregon's common sense election laws which rightly prohibit the centralization of ballots across county lines. The RCV-OR proposal in the pipeline would repeal these election integrity provisions.

The fact is, if Ranked Choice Voting was good enough for public adoption, STAR Voting would not have been invented, but RCV has been systematically and intentionally oversold by the dark groups behind it for decades. While RCV does bring moderate gains in some areas, many of the advantages it boasts are likely attributable to eliminating the primary in some cities it's been used, and the preferential ballot. (Things that STAR Voting and RCV have in common.) Evidence supporting the RCV algorithm itself over other alternative methods is hard to come by. Unfortunately, RCV does not solve the problems it sets out to solve and introduces a number of serious new issues in the process. 

STAR Voting is the reform on the ballot before you today because it is science-backed, peer-reviewed, and vetted. STAR Voting specifically goes further to deliver on the goals of previous proposals while addressing known issues with Ranked Choice Voting that are absolutely solvable.

This is not something we need to compromise on. STAR Voting naturally complies with all of our election infrastructure, or election integrity best practices, and unlike RCV, it's fully constitutional not just in Oregon, but around the country.


Note: Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) used to be known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). It was rebranded to distance itself from a growing body peer reviewed literature showing concerning findings, and because the term "instant" was found to be misleading by jurisdictions that adopted it, as the tally often takes weeks to conduct. 


The Ranked Choice track record is problematic

While Ranked Choice Voting does help prevent spoilers if an election only has two frontrunners, spoilers and vote-splitting can and do still happen in competitive races, despite claims to the contrary. In Alaska's first RCV trial using the system statewide for a US House election, the candidate preferred over all others lost, which drew a wave of national backlash against RCV and a statewide repeal effort. RCV has now been repealed in 19 jurisdictions, is banned in 6 states, and is already unconstitutional in many more.

READ: rcvchangedalaska.com

Around the country and world, real world case studies on RCV have had mixed results. While voters like preference voting in general, and eliminating the primary and allowing voters to be more expressive with their votes has led to some improvements in representation for women and People of Color on average, we've seen serious increases in ballots voided due to voter error. In RCV, if a voter gives candidates an equal ranking that could void their ballot, and this is a common voter behavior. Skipped rankings can also void a ballot. Studies have shown that voided ballot rates increase significantly under RCV, and that voters of color, seniors, lower-income voters, and non-English speakers are impacted at higher rates. These voter behaviors are allowed under STAR Voting and will not void your ballot.


Weaponizing race against an organization led by women and people of color 

Our team is not only led by women and people of color, it's also diverse in every other way, including age, identity, and political affiliation. Our coalition includes leading organizations and experts from around the country and the world, and we could not be more proud of our team, our volunteers, and our supporters. STAR Voting is a win-win proposal that levels the playing field and ensures that every voter has an equally powerful voice.

The claim about voter disenfranchisement rests on an assumption that marginalized voters will incorrectly fill out the star ballot in ways that make their vote less powerful than the votes of white voters. Not only is this point not explained and not backed by citations or data of any kind, it's also fundamentally racist and rests on an assumption that voters of color are not smart enough to do a 5 star rating. We find this deeply offensive. 

While robust and inclusive voter education for voting reform is absolutely essential, the fact remains that the STAR Voting instructions are simple and will be right there on the ballot.

This attack also ignores the fact that a STAR ballot is still able to be counted and will be fully powerful even if the instructions aren't followed, whereas an RCV ballot that is incorrectly filled out may not be countable, leading to a complete loss of the vote.

In Ranked Choice it's common for voters to give multiple candidates the same rank, which would void your ballot. In STAR Voting, a voter is allowed to give the candidates same score to show they like those candidates equally. 

In Ranked Choice it's also common for voters to skip rankings, and this can and does void some voters ballots, depending on the jurisdiction and implementation details. Even when skipped rankings are allowed in a jurisdiction, this process seriously complicates the tabulation logistics for election officials, and it was specifically a mistally of skipped rankings that led to the incorrect tabulation of all RCV races and the seating of the incorrect winner in Alameda County, California in 2022. 

In STAR Voting there is no requirement to strictly rank or rate candidates in order. Voters can rate the candidates as desired. Full stop. 

Lastly, if some voters give higher scores on average, and others give lower scores, that does not make one person's vote more powerful than another person's. In STAR Voting, the runoff counts voters, so no matter what scores you gave, your ballot will count as ONE VOTE for the finalist you prefer. 


In addition to ballots voided by voter error, RCV ballots can also be "exhausted", meaning that the vote is unable to transfer and thus unable to be counted in the deciding round, even if the voter had ranked all the available candidates. In Ranked Choice, some voters whose favorite is eliminated will have their next choice counted and others will not. There are multiple w
ays a voter's voice may not be heard with RCV, while it's virtually impossible to accidentally invalidate a STAR ballot. STAR Voting does not have exhausted ballots. 

This is why it is clear the opponents are arguing in bad faith -- the critique they lob at STAR doesn't hold up, but is fatal when applied to the system they are advocating for. The tactic here is clear. They are operating on the principle that the best defense is a strong offense, and are specifically attacking STAR Voting on the areas Ranked Choice is weakest to confuse the issue and turn the debate into a he-said-she-said. The facts speak for themselves. 


In Conclusion

The one valid argument that Ranked Choice advocates have against STAR Voting is that Eugene would be the first jurisdiction to use STAR Voting at this level of government. Thus, their goal is to knee-cap STAR Voting before it has been adopted for municipal elections, this talking point becomes moot, and they have nothing else to point to. Ranked Choice was invented over 150 years ago. Voting reform has come a long way in that time. 

In conclusion, STAR Voting was invented to address the serious issues with Ranked Choice Voting and it goes further to deliver on the goals of the movement.

We owe it to voters to get this right.