STAR voting was defeated

  1. What went wrong?
  2. Wait. I thought there were two counties with STAR voting as a possibility (Lane and something starting with “M”)… what happened to the other one?
  3. When is our next shot at trying again?

(Edit: duplicate removed)


The more complications, the harder it is to sell to the voters. Plain score would probably have had more success.


Approval voting reverberates with the soul of american democracy. Goverment governs by the consent of the governed not the high marks of the governed not the best average score of the governed.

Approval voting is consent voting. Plus the lume warm support and multi phase is just tedious. Approval voting - the candidate who wins the hearts and minds of the people wins. It’s easy sexier.


What went wrong: This was a close election. There are probably several factors that each individually swayed enough votes to swing the election.

The Register-Guard endorsements suggested “no” on STAR. Their editorial can be summed up by the following infuriating quote: “Lane County voters shouldn’t latch onto a shiny new model, even a promising one, just because the current system needs reforming.” In other words, they had literally no arguments against STAR aside from the fact it was new.

Also, FairVote’s passive-aggressive anti-STAR hit piece was in the top page of google results. That was bad and in retrospect it would have been worth it to bump that.

Overall, I think that the STAR campaign did a very creditable job, they just didn’t quite make it across the finish line. I know for a fact that they’ll try again in Lane county. They may also make an attempt in Multnomah county (Portland).


Or… Voters just realized it’s not great si cedar voting is almost entirely divorced from our civic history.

No party approval is the future. We started this country without primaries we will return to it without primaries


One major challenge is the general public’s unfamiliarity with alternatives to plurality, especially ones that aren’t IRV. That probably hurt with the people who were mostly interested in the up-ballot races.



In my long experience, people are not very fond of elections with consecutive runoffs. Why not try for simple score voting, whereby voters can cast from (1) to (10) votes to each of as many candidates as they desire? I can almost guarantee it will be an easier sell.


I don’t see why people should be opposed to runoffs, provided that said runoffs are automatic that don’t require additional effort by the voters, especially if it also doesn’t require any additional effort in re-counting ballots which is one of the benefits of STAR.


We got over 47% of the vote. From canvassing both door to door and on the street, we are hearing back that people who had heard of the reform overwhelmingly voted yes.

Why do I think it failed? The ballot title was confusing and didn’t say the words “STAR Voting.” It said “amends charter, adopts Score Then Automatic Runoff for county elections.” Many people, even supporters, had no idea what that meant. A few of our volunteers even reported that they hadn’t seen STAR on their ballot so they hadn’t been able to vote for it. Others I talk to still say they’ve never heard of STAR Voting, even after they voted in the election.

The race was close enough that if any one thing had been better we could have won. My hope is that our fight will inspire people who sat this one out on the sidelines to step up. Any one of us, including you, could have made the difference.

Top 5 reasons STAR didn’t pass:

  1. Bad ballot title
  2. Lack of funds and the financial security to keep staff secure and maintain bandwidth through a 2 year campaign.
  3. FairVote
  4. Lack of visible support from groups who should have been vocal proponents.
  5. Lack of education about how our political system is broken and how that is rooted in the Choose-One-Only ballot.


Evidence for 3? Because one of my biggest problems with UnfairVote is that they like to make claims with no or flimsy evidence, and I do not want CES or =✔️C to suffer from the same problem.

I really believe that someone should write a letter to the Iowa and NewHampshire Democrat and Republican parties asking them to implement STAR voting in their primaries. Because while the main parties might be against reforming voting in general elections due to wanting to remain in power, I can see no reason why a party would want to refuse a change that would let them select the candidate that best represents their party and is also most electable. (The republicans may think they already know who is going to win the 2020 primary but we could phrase it as a practice for the 2024 election…)


I didn’t see the runoff as a big concern for people we talked to. Rather they liked that STAR accomplishes the goals of a primary and general without having to make people vote twice.

“STAR allows us to skip the low turnout primary and just vote once in November using a 5 star ballot. The cool thing about it is that even if your favorite can’t win, your full vote automatically transfers to the finalist who YOU prefer. So your vote is never wasted and you can vote your conscience, even if you don’t think your favorite can win.”


Evidence for #3:
When you google STAR Voting their hit piece comes out at the top of the list of results. Generally above even our own main website,
The claims made in that article are just FUD that has been soundly refuted. They even admitted that the article was problematic and misleading, and agreed to take it down, but then they didn’t.

FairVote also did a lot of back-channeling, working to convince organizations that were leaning towards supporting us to not do so for fear of “dividing the movement.”


I was surprised by how few people had heard of any alternative voting options. IRV did not have a big leg up on STAR at all once we got out of the political and activist circles into the realm of normal voters.


I personally like Score a lot and am not super worried about strategic voting in practice, but I was surprised how many people I talked to on the street would argue that voters would just give out all 5s and 0s. (We didn’t usually get into the runoff at all in the shorter pitch.) That argument was just as common for people who had never heard the FairVote propaganda. They came up with that argument themselves and many were deeply concerned with vulnerability with strategic voting ie. if people can get an edge from gaming the system. It was among the most common questions and concerns raised. When we explained the runoff, and how it ensures that your vote isn’t wasted, even if your favorite can’t win, people really responded well. Concern addressed.

With plain Score, if you don’t think your favorite can win you should probably give your lesser evil 5 stars too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.


If they haven’t heard of any alternative voting options, that is still a problem. When they see the ballot question, they’ll see it as making a change that they don’t understand the point of. By default they’ll opt for the status quo.


Ironically, when I first heard about approval voting, I independently invented the idea of Score Voting specifically because I thought I would like to express more nuanced preferences than just “Yes” or “No”. (Perhaps it was all those personality questionnaires where you could choose, say, Never or Rarely or Sometimes or Usually or Always and I was in between two answers on more than half of the questions.)

In most Score elections, there should be more than just your favorite, your favorite front runner, and those you hate. You would give the 1-8 scores to those other candidates.

Although STAR incentivizes “abacus Voting” where you give 5, 4, 3… to your preferred and 0, 1, 2, … to your least preferred candidates. Of course the very compressed scale causes some collisions there… (and I kind of think 0-9 is a better range especially for large elections).

STAR effectively becomes Score if every candidate clones themselves. So it is not immune to cloning, but it is mild (unlike Borda) and only helps the clones (unlike C1V).


How many people were familiar with the FairVote propaganda? As infuriating as their denialist approach to arguing is, have they really played that big a role in stifling cardinal voting movements? I mean, if people aren’t familiar with voting reform of any sort, they aren’t going to be familiar with anything FairVote says.


Yes! We as a movement need to do a LOT more to educate people on the problems with the current system. We can and should do that without even broaching the subject of alternatives. It’s a lot to digest on it’s own.

As to the 0-5 scale for STAR Voting, it was chosen because of the more user friendly interface, but also because a bigger 0-9+ scale is more vulnerable to tactical voting, specifically tactical minimization and maximization. A smaller scale mitigates the effects of those strategies on the actual outcomes. Plus, all those bubbles are a turn off for people. It looks cluttered, overwhelming, and confusing.


People on the street mostly are unfamiliar with the whole thing. I’d say 90% or so.

People who are familiar with voting reform at all are universally familiar with FairVote and if they’ve studied it at all they have heard and usually believe the propaganda. “But Ranked Choice solves the spoiler effect! Why not just go with that?” is a super common conversation. Then it derails to an “Is not!” “Is too!” debate and people trust the big org, not the stranger they are meeting on the street or online.

I don’t think we can afford to underestimate the impact of FairVotes propaganda and I think we need a real coordinated strategy to set the record straight. Since the election FV’s twitter feed has been full of the same false claims they promised to stop making years ago.