How Ranked Choice Voting Increases Campaign Civility

By changing the math of how votes are counted, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) changes the calculations that candidates make when deciding how to campaign. Plurality voting is a zero sum game where each candidate either gets your vote or doesn’t; one candidate’s loss is their opponent’s gain so there is strong incentive for each candidate to attack the other. In terms of election outcomes it doesn’t matter if a candidate gets a vote because voters like them, or if they get it because voters hate their opponent.

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Bodega and Thoughts on Diversity of Founders and Investors

Bodega, a new startup, launched today, and faced instant criticism of their name and it’s the impact their business could have on actual Bodega’s.  There were calls of cultural appropriation in the use of the name, only exacerbated by a business model that could be interpreted as designed to compete against local (and often minority) owned corner stores.

The founders of Bodega quickly put up a blog post (So, about our name…) explaining their innocent intentions.  The most highlighted sentence in that piece so far reads:

But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.

I’ll come back to that thought in a moment.  That same day, Hunter Walk, a partner at the VC firm homebrew and an investor in Bodega put up his own post about the investment (Thinking About Bodega), and his perspective on the reaction to the name of the company.  I follow Hunter regularly on Twitter, and while I’ve never met him, I think he’s one of the more insightful VC’s who Tweets and Blogs regularly.  But his last paragraph relates to the point I want to make, and connects back to the sentence above from the founder of Bodega.

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Ranked Choice Voting and Voter Participation

Note: This post is a part of an ongoing series of posts about Ranked Choice Voting.  You can find other posts in the series here, with more posts to come.

Voter participation in the U.S. is hard to pin down. It can be measured as percentage of registered voters, eligible voters, those of voting age, or of the population as a whole. Participation is higher in presidential elections with new candidates then when one is up for re-election, with even lower turnout for midterm elections, primaries, and municipal races. And voting rates vary widely from state to state, district to district, and demographic to demographic. Increasing the benefits of voting, and or decreasing the obstacles in order to improve voter turnout is not a straightforward proposition with a one size fits all solution.

Still, it’s easy to see why in recent years Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is appealing to many who are looking for ways increase voter turnout. In certain types of elections RCV can eliminate the need for primaries so people only need to make the effort to vote once. Ranking also offers people more choices and doesn’t alienate those who don’t want a major party candidate and it gives each vote more meaning since all votes will affect a candidate’s outcome. RCV also encourages civility during the campaign as each candidate can still benefit from being the number two choice of their opponent’s supporters.

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Amicus Briefs on SC Gerrymandering case – Is The Tide Finally Turning?

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On October 3, the Supreme Court will hear the Oral Arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case where voters challenged Wisconsin’s state assembly map.

From the Brennan Center article:

The briefs forcefully refute the familiar argument that partisan gerrymandering is mainly about whether Democrats or Republicans come out on top electorally. For example, a brief filed by prominent Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Kasich, Bob Dole, and Dick Lugar, among others, asserts that “[i]f th[e Supreme] Court does not stop partisan gerrymanders, partisan politicians will be emboldened to enact ever more egregious gerrymanders . . . That result would be devastating for our democracy.”

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain—in a brief filed with Senator Whitehouse—warned that “[p]artisan gerrymandering has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process.” A bipartisan group of 65 current and former state lawmakers, and a bipartisan coalition of current and former members of Congress have also filed briefs in support of the plaintiffs.

You can read more about the case and the briefs filed here.  It’s worth a read.  This is an important case to watch.

Automatic Voter Registration Passes In Illinois

Illinois this week became the 10th state to pass automatic voter registration.  Good.  More states should follow suit.  There are few election reforms that are as straightforward to implement, and provide so much benefit to the electoral process.

Under the Illinois law, whenever someone interacts with the DMV or other state agency, they are registered to vote.  If they don’t want to be registered, they can opt out.  But there is no action they have to take to be registered.

Not only does this increase the number of registered voters, but it helps to clean up the voter rolls, correct mistakes, and achieve many of the goals that the Voter Suppression…sorry, Voter Fraud Commission is supposedly focused on.

Past experience shows how effective this reform is.  From the NYT article:

Meanwhile in Oregon, which in 2015 became the first state to pass automatic voter registration, more than 272,000 people were registered in the law’s first year, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress. Of these, 116,000 were found to be unlikely to have registered otherwise, and 40,000 of that group voted in 2016, helping Oregon achieve the nation’s largest turnout increase from 2012 — 4.1 points, to 68.3 percent. Contrary to Republican fears, that increase did not equal Democratic gains. Democrats lost seats in the State Legislature, even though the new voters were more racially diversethan previously registered voters.

In other words, increasing voter participation should be a bipartisan project.


Woeful Funding Stats for Women Entrepreneurs

The Boston Globe recently published funding stats women entrepreneurs for 2016.  It shows how much work we have to do to grow support for women in entrepreneurship.

In 2016, only 9 percent of the $71.7 billion in US venture capital funding went to companies with female founders, according to data prepared for The Boston Globe by the research firm PitchBook.

That was down from 13 percent in 2015, which had been the highest level in years.  The numbers in Boston are marginally better: Last year, about 13 percent of Boston-area VC money went to firms with at least one woman founder, according to PitchBook data, though that, too, was a decline, from 18 percent in 2015.

I wished they had included stats around minority founders as well.

Note that this isn’t just for companies with a founding team comprised entirely of women.  This is for founding teams that include any women at all.

I think it’s going to be increasingly clear over time that companies have to look like their target audience / customers if they are going to be successful.  There is a sea change coming in the demographics of the U.S. specfically, and it’s going to create new opportunities that more diverse founding teams, and companies, should be better positioned to take advantage of.

But it’s going to require a lot of work to put in place the support structures from childhood through college and through the startup eco-system to support increased diversity.

The Great Divide

There is an interesting piece in the NYT today about the different political views of David Horowitz and his son Ben, the well known venture investor from Andreessen Horowitz.  It is a look at the divide not just between this family, but between us as a country.  One quote stands out for me, and I’ve seen this stated before.

The core identity of most people was community, family and religion. But as these other parts of society withered, politics filled the void.

I think this gets to the crux of a lot of what has led to an increase in vitrol and distrust of the ‘other’.  We don’t have community anymore.  There is no common language, that ties us together.  And so we retreat to our homes, stare out our chose media sources, and shout at the internet.

I’m not sure how to solve this problem.  I only see it getting worse.  But I don’t know that we get to a better place as a country without figuring this out.

Networking and Deliberate Practice

First Round Capital has a terrific newsletter, First Round Review. If you don’t get it, you should go here and subscribe. They constantly publish great pieces on entrepreneurship, managing your career and building a great business.
I’ve read a lot of networking articles over the years. But I was really drawn into one of their recent posts, How To Become Insanely Well Connected. There is a lot of great info in this piece, but one bit of advice really struck me regarding building my dream contact list.

What do you want your network to look like, and what are you trying to achieve?  If you know who your top 5 dream contacts are and what you want to talk to them about, you’ll be ready when you run into someone who knows them. Likewise, it’s good to have a forcing function for keeping those connections healthy — consider creating a rolling reminder to get in touch.

It made me realize that my network was developing in an ad hoc way.  One good meeting would lead to an intro to someone else, and that meeting might lead me to someone else of interest.  But it had been a long time since I had sat down, thought deliberately about how I wanted my network to grow, and what new experiences and relationships would be most relevant to how I’m thinking about the future.  

I realized that while my interest in public policy is growing, and as I tried to think through how I could make a great impact in this area, my personal network has almost no one with this kind of experience.  

And that brought me back to the work of Anders Ericsson in the area of deliberate practice.  If you’re not familiar with Anders’ work, this Freakonomics podcast interview is a good place to start.

It reminded me that if you want to make progress in any particular area, you have to have a deliberate effort around making it happen.  And as it relates to building and expanding my network in new directions, I have some work to do.

An Opportunity on Health Care

The failure of the Republicans in the Senate to repeal key parts of Obamacare is an opportunity to start to change the debate on health care. To stop demonizing providing coverage for those that need it, and to see the opportunities that exist when we take away the fear of a lack of coverage.

David Frum has a terrific piece in the Atlantic, The Republican Waterloo.
A key sentence for me is: “They’ll find that they have removed one of the most important barriers to entrepreneurship, because people with bright ideas will fear less to quit the jobs through which they get their health care. ”

The number of new business start ups in America continue to fall. I have to believe that financial insecurity tied to concerns around health care is playing a part in this trend.

As the ACA continues to climb in the polls, it’s clear that people want government to play a role in providing health care. Let’s hope Congress gets the message.