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Municipal elections in Massachusetts today. I live in Cambridge, which uses STV (Single Transferable Vote), a form of PR (Proportional Representation.) You rank the candidates in order, and black magic -- performed these days by Accu-Vote machines and computers -- computes a set of winners. 9 out of 18 candidates for city council, 6 out of 11 for school committee. I accidentally put two numbers for the same council candidate and had to try again. Non-partisan elections, so gauging the proportionality isn't as simple as matching up parties in the populace and council. I don't know much about the candidates, but I did find a trove of somewhat detailed candidate statements, so made my best guesses. There was a lot of similarity; even the one Republican (there's no party on the ballots) sounded pretty liberal. Occasionally things stood out as distinctive, though. Anyway, I did my bit for participating in diligently last-minute semi-informed democracy.

I think my preference for open party-list over STV went up a bit. Ranking 29 candidates via pen and scantron, nnng. Party-list could potentially have hundreds of candidates, but you have only one vote to cast.

We can try other evaluations than party: the current council shown here http://www.cambridgema.gov/ccouncil.aspx is 3/9 women, 1/9 black (the dark woman is Asian), 2/9 Asian, and 0/9 Hispanic as far as I can tell. Wikipedia says Cambridge is about 12% each for African-American and Asian, 7% Hispanic, and 51% female. So the blacks are spot on but the women are lacking. Of course, it's also pretty middle-aged. One candidate said he'd be the only tenant on the Council if elected, and I'm sure there's more than 1/9 renters in town. Sortition (random selection) as used by ancient Athens (they thought elections were too oligarchic, except where needed for generals [experienced] and treasurers [rich enough to not steal]) would be much more generally representative.

The school committee is http://www.cpsd.us/schcomm/committee_members.cfm is 3/6 male and 5/6 white, 1/6 black, not counting the Mayor, who is elected by the Council from among its own members and automatically head of both Council and Committee. Not to be confused with the City Manager, who is hired by the Council -- in the incumbent's base, for like the past 30 years. Apparently to good effect; Cambridge finances seem to have weathered the recession quite well.

Icon is particularly appropriate, being of a character who is a conduit for an Imperial Mandate of Heaven, who advocated (in a snarky aside) democracy as an alternative to said mandate.

"Cambridge is also the birthplace of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who is the world's longest reigning monarch at age 82 (2010), as well as the longest reigning monarch in Thai history. He is also the first king of a foreign country to be born in the United States." Also, I'm currently a "Cantabridgian". O_o

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Damien Sullivan

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