STAR Voting Authorized for Oregon’s Presidential Delegate Selection Elections

STAR Voting Authorized for Oregon’s Presidential Delegate Selection Elections

Newberg, Ore, August 22, 2019—The Democratic Party of Oregon’s State Central Committee voted unanimously to authorize a modified version of STAR Voting for use in Oregon’s 2020 Presidential Delegate Selection Elections. The vote represents the first step towards adopting the alternative voting method, if DPO Chair KC Hansen receives DNC approval for the change, and if other due diligence conditions are met.

The Delegate Selection Elections, held at a series of conventions around the state, will determine the delegates to represent each presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention.

In 2016 the Delegate Selection Elections used a multi-round “majority” process, with male and female candidates listed on separate ballots. This ensured that both genders received ½ of the seats available, and that all winners were elected with majority support, but a recent rule from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) including a new non-binary category made that process practically impossible while also ensuring winners with majority support. The irony of eroding election integrity in an effort to be more inclusive was not lost on the State Central Committee, the governing body of the DPO, and the party has been gridlocked over the controversy for much of the year.

That’s where STAR Voting came in. An innovative proposal under consideration for city and county elections around the state, STAR Voting has a history of bringing together supporters who are not used to agreeing on anything. A hybrid method itself, STAR Voting has recently inspired a number of diverse political parties to take steps towards authorizing its adoption for internal elections.

In STAR voting, voters score each candidate from zero to five. The two candidates with the highest scores advance to an automatic runoff, where the candidate preferred by the majority voters wins. In contrast, the current Choose-One Plurality method widely used for elections only ensures a winner has majority support if there are no more than two candidates in the race.

STAR Voting, which has been the subject of ongoing research by the DPO Election Integrity Caucus, caught the eye of party leadership as a potential solution. Presented by party Chair KC Hansen, Executive Director Brad Martin, and Multnomah County Vice Chair Michael Smith, STAR Voting proved to be just the win-win the party needed. The State Central Committee agreed and approved the use of STAR unanimously.

STAR Voting eliminates common election pitfalls such as vote splitting, lesser-evil voting, wasted votes, and spoilers. For these reasons STAR Voting is highly accurate with any number of candidates, which is particularly important as some Delegate Selection Elections could have as many as 150 candidates on one ballot.

At a time when state Democratic parties around the country are looking for better options as we head into a presidential primary with an unprecedented number of candidates, Oregon once again pioneers an innovative way forward.


Sara Wolf: 971-222-9364

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Additional Supporting Materials

Details on the motion passed:
The Democratic Party of Oregon State Central Committee passed a motion on August 11th, 2019 stating that the Democratic Party of Oregon Chair is authorized to submit a technical revision to the Delegate Selection Plan as approved by the Democratic Party of Oregon Executive Committee to utilize a form of modified STAR Majority voting for the 2020 Delegate Selection Process, so long as this voting process is able to meet the following conditions:

  1. Technology required to successfully implement modified STAR Majority voting is scalable to the needs of the Delegate Selection Conventions.
  2. These tools are reasonably able to be used by volunteers and staff without high-level technical skills.
  3. The Democratic Party of Oregon Rules Committee includes language in the 2020 Convention Rules allowing for a 72 hour grace period in reporting convention results.
  4. This technical revision is accepted by the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Officers, Staff, and Leadership of the Democratic Party of Oregon will be working with STAR Voting supporters over the coming weeks to meet the conditions set in this motion and based on their success will submit this technical revision to the Democratic National Committee for approval.

What is STAR Voting?
STAR Voting is a voting method where candidates are scored from 0 up to 5 stars. Voters may give candidates the same scores if they don’t have a preference, and candidates left blank receive a 0.

STAR stands for Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff and that’s exactly how it works. All the scores from all the ballots are totaled and the two highest scoring candidates are finalists. Your ballot already shows which finalist you scored higher if you had a preference, and the finalist preferred by the majority wins.

STAR Voting is highly accurate with any number of candidates in the race, which is especially important for elections like the Oregon Delegate Selection process which often has a huge field of candidates and many winners. STAR Voting eliminates vote splitting and the spoiler effect, eliminates wasted votes, and guarantees that each winner was preferred by the majority of voters. STAR Voting is locally summable, which means that ballots don’t require central tabulation. This is important for maintaining auditability, transparency, and election security for statewide and larger scale elections.

What is Modified STAR Majority Voting?
Multi-Winner Gender Balanced STAR Voting is a modified version of STAR Voting which has been developed specifically to meet the demands of the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules. Voters only need to vote once with a single ballot. The method is essentially tabulated as a series of single-winner STAR Voting elections to determine a candidate ranking of finalists. That list is then gender balanced to ensure parity between male and female winners while also allowing non-binary candidates to be elected on a level playing field.

What are Oregon’s Presidential Delegate Selection Elections?

Each presidential candidate who receives over 15% of the vote in Oregon’s May Presidential Primary will be proportionally allotted a set number of delegates.

Oregon’s Presidential Delegate Selection is a series of internal elections which determine the individuals who will go to the 2020 Democratic National Convention and ultimately vote for Oregon on who will win the Democratic Party nomination. Any registered Democrat is eligible to run.

At the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, WI, delegates from around the county will convene and vote on who will represent the Democratic Party in the general election. Voting is done in rounds, until one presidential candidate receives a majority of delegate votes. In the first and second rounds, Oregon’s delegates will be pledged to vote for the candidate they were elected to represent if that candidate is still in the running. In the second and subsequent round, Super-Delegates will also be allowed to vote. After the second round, if no candidate has received a majority, all delegates will be free to vote as they choose, representing the full weight of Oregon’s voters.


This is great news.


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Here’s the 20 characters.


This is fabulous news!

I’ll just push back on some terminology. Neither STAR voting nor this modification guarantee a majority winner, any more than IRV does. In fact no method does when there are more than two candidates.

I.e. there is no guarantee that a majority of voters will actually support the winner. Pretending that people who only support candidates other than the two in the runoff devalues their vote. You simply can’t make a majority of voters support any particular candidate. And I think you wouldn’t want to even if you could, since there are other important considerations, as noted in The Majority Illusion: What Voting Methods Can and Cannot Do.

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Who votes using the STAR ballots? The primary voters, or party officials?

Does anyone know more about the internal decision-making here. Were non-STAR methods considered? The wording makes it sound like there three people presenting STAR to the State Central Committee, apparently in the absence of viable other options. I don’t know how big this committee is but, with human nature and politics as it is, it’s surprising the vote was unanimous if even a handful of committee members had so much as watched a youtube video about STV or something

Multnomah County is a county in Oregon. It has a population of about 812,000 people.

Why can’t people here just come out and say what they mean?